Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales are looking for big money this offseason. Morales rejected the Seattle Mariners qualifying offer and is seeking three to four years at 15 million per. On the other hand, Cruz is supposedly looking for four years and 75 million. The Seattle Mariners have been linked to both players.
At first glance, those dollar amounts look ridiculous. Cruz has a career .268/.327/.495 line with a 114 wRC+. The Texas Rangers outfielder is 33 years old and has amassed 3.9 fWAR the past three seasons. Morales has a career .280/.333/.480 line and a 117 wRC+. The Seattle Mariners first baseman and designated hitter is 30 years old and has 4.1 fWAR over the last three seasons.
Overall, Cruz and Morales are very similar players. Both are bat-only players. While Morales is three years younger, he’s spends most of his time at designated hitter. Theoretically, Cruz can play the outfield. Both are very poor baserunners. Steamer projects Cruz for a .260/.322/.478 line with a 113 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR. Meanwhile, Morales projects for a .268/.330/.456 line with a 115 wRC+ and 1.7 fWAR.
Let’s dig a little deeper. How have players with similar skills sets aged? Here’s a list of of players that have managed a wRC+ between 110 and 120 with an ISO of at least .190 through their age-32 seasons. Data goes back to 1990 and is limited to first basemen, corner outfielders, and designated hitters. These are bat-first power hitters which don’t reach base too frequently.
Of those names, not many aged well. Except for his disastrous 2013 farewell season, Konerko was strong in his later years. Tino had some productive years and hung around for a while. Werth has had trouble staying healthy the last couple of seasons, but he’s mashed to the tune of a 147 wRC+ when he’s in the lineup. Other than that, it’s pretty ugly. For Konerko’s 8.2 fWAR after his age-32 season, there was Jermaine Dye with -0.3 fWAR. Below are the averages for the 11 players in the group.
Through age 32: 114 wRC+, 17.1 fWAR. After age-32: 109 wRC+, 3.1 fWAR.
Bat-first guys without high on-base percentages don’t age too well. Plenty of ink has been spilled about the risks of signing Jacoby Ellsbury, a speed-reliant player, to a long-term deal. Generally speaking, that type of player has held up pretty well. Perhaps the real concerns should center around signing plodding sluggers to multi-year deals.
Right now, the price of a win is looking to be around $6-7 million this offseason. To live up to a contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $18-19 million, Cruz would have to average 3.0 fWAR per year. Morales would have to average 2.5 fWAR per year to live up to a contract with a $15 million AAV.
Looking at the aging curves for players with their skill sets, it’s more likely that they accumulate 3 fWAR over the remainder of their playing careers. Don’t be fooled by the home runs, anything more than a two or three-year commitment with an AAV higher than $8-10 million is an overpay for either Cruz or Morales.