I feel for Juan Cruz, really I do. After failing to live up to the huge expectations with the Cubs, Cruz has turned his career around in the bullpen with the Diamondbacks. Last season, the free agent to be put up the best numbers in his career, producing a stellar 2.61 ERA and striking out 71 in only 51 innings.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that Cruz would be in line for a big contract. Just last season, the White Sox gave RP Scott Linebrink, the best middle relief pitcher on the market, a 4 year contract worth $18 million bucks. A contract similar to Linebrink's should not have been out of the question for Cruz, one of the best free agents on the 2008 market.
However, the market for Juan Cruz has surprisingly bottomed out. Cruz has been hurt by the poor economy as teams have cut back on their spending and long term deals. Also, Cruz's market has been severely undercut by the free agent compensation system, which labeled Cruz as a type A free agent. Because of his type A status, any team who signed Cruz would have to surrender their first round pick.
Because of the terrible economy, that's a price that many teams have been unwilling to pay.
As a result, Cruz remains a free agent with only a few days to go until spring training. There has been virtually no buzz for Cruz and it remains to be seen where he will end up.
Let's take a look at some potential landing spots for Cruz:
Diamondbacks: To me, this scenario makes the most sense for all parties involved. The Diamondbacks would not have to surrender their first round pick for Cruz since he played for them last season and signing Cruz would give the Diamondbacks one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. And for Cruz, this is a good situation for him. He has flourished in the desert before and if has a good 2009, then there is no reason why he cannot capitalize on the market again after the season.
A one year deal would be great. Make it happen, Josh Byrnes.
Yankees: Like the Diamondbacks, the Yankees would not have to surrender their first round pick if they signed Cruz (already lost to Angels). However, GM Brian Cashman has stated that the Yankees are done and not looking to add to the roster, which would eliminate them from signing Cruz.
Mets: I would love to see the Mets add Cruz. If 2007 and 2008 have taught Mets fans anything, its that you can never have too much bullpen. Even with Putz and K-Rod, the Mets would have a dominant bullpen if they added Cruz to the mix. Plus, the Mets would not have to surrender their first round pick (already lost to Angels).
However, GM Omara Minaya has stated that the Mets are done and are not looking to add to their roster, which would eliminate them from signing Cruz. Sound familiar?
Tigers: The Tigers seem to have reached their payroll limit, especially after signing Brandon Lyon, but the fact remains that their bullpen is weak. Cruz would help fill a huge void, but it remains to be seen if the Tigers are willing to give up their second round pick or dish out the dough for Cruz. I think not.
Dodgers: If the Dodgers sign Orlando Hudson, then they will only have to surrender their second round pick, and not their first to sign Cruz. Under that scenario, Cruz makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers. He would provide depth to the back end of the bullpen and make the Dodgers pen potentially dominant. However, like most teams, it remains to be seen if the Dodgers will have enough money to offer something substantial to Cruz.
Japan: Hey, if Cruz is only concerned about the money and has no other offers, he can go here. Sayonara.
As we can see, it's not a good time to be Juan Cruz or his agent. This should have been a great time for Juan Cruz, but instead, he has become a market casualty because of his type A status.
It's time to change the free agent compensation rules, major league baseball.