Sometimes it’s the move a team doesn’t make that causes it to look back with the biggest relief or most regret. In the case of the 2014 Seattle Mariners, it sounds like regret after Bob Dutton of the News Tribune reported the team had a one-year deal in place to sign outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz, but the signing was ultimately nixed by the team’s ownership. The Mariners had a deal in place last winter with Cruz, then a free agent, for roughly $7.5 million in 2014 with a club option of about $9 million for 2015…before ownership backed away. The primary concern, which all clubs shared, was how Cruz, then 33, would respond after being caught and suspended as part of the Biogenesis drug scandal. Still, officials with several clubs say they stopped viewing Cruz as a potential target because they expected he would bridge any differences with the Mariners. “I still don’t know what happened there,” an official with a rival club said. “We were told it was done. And it seemed such an obvious fit for both sides. There was risk, certainly, but…” But no go for Seattle. As it turned out, Cruz ended up inking a one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles, which was celebrated as a shrewd signing at the time. Now it looks like the best bargain of the entire offseason. Cruz went on to lead MLB with 40 home runs during the regular season as the Orioles surprisingly ran away with the AL East. His three homers in the ALDS helped Baltimore sweep the Detroit Tigers. As for Seattle, they’re on the outside looking in after missing the postseason by one game. Just one game. Oh, the possibilities that must be going through the minds of Mariners fans, especially when analyzing how little they received from their designated hitter spot. Several players filled the role, but for the season Seattle DH’s combined to hit just .190 with 15 homers. The offense, as a whole, hit .244, which ranked 21st in MLB. The Mariners were among the most aggressive teams in free agency, signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract last December. They also signed free agents Corey Hart, Scott Baker and John Buck — all of whom were released or designated for assignment — and traded for Logan Morrison. By and large, the moves were hit or miss, and perhaps the biggest miss was letting Cruz get away. The Orioles on the other hand, were criticized for not being more aggressive early in free agency. They sat back and watched the market play out before striking late deals with Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. Cruz obviously worked out. Without him Baltimore would have had a difficult time overcoming season-ending injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado. But his stand-alone value may make it difficult to lock him up on a long-term deal. Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal, has been a flop so far. He was left off Baltimore’s ALCS roster . With Cruz likely hitting the market again, Dutton says it’s possible the Mariners will make another play for him to help fill out their lineup. “Oh, I wouldn’t rule it out,” one Mariners official said. “We know what we need, and we’re going to go hard after one of those guys.” That said, given the circumstances surrounding his previous Mariners deal falling apart, in addition to his substantial rise in value, Cruz should have enough suitors with money to spend to make Seattle an extreme long shot, if not an afterthought in the process. More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: – - – - – - – Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter!
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