Exit Interview: Tony Cruz

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Tony Cruz

Season stats:  50 games,  150 PA,  11 R,  5 2B,  1 HR,  17 RBI,  13 BB, 28 K, .200/.270/.259  49 OPS+

Hero/Goat: Goat 1

Overall grade: C-

Positives: Had a shining moment in the postseason as he hit a home run off of Madison Bumgarner in the Cardinals’ last game….hit righthanders a bit better than his season line, putting up a .572 OPS against them….hit .247 in the first half in almost exactly half of his playing time.

Negatives: His first real postseason moment, filling in for a hurt Yadier Molina, was a negative one, allowing a passed ball in the first inning of play and a wild pitch that let the Giants score the winning run….could not claim the starting job entirely while Molina missed time during the season, leading the team to eventually settle on A.J. Pierzynski….hit a paltry .157 in the second half, with fatigue not really an excuse.

Overview: We often have heard it said that Tony Cruz could be an acceptable backstop if anything were to happen to Yadier Molina.  Then, when something does happen to Molina, the Cardinals scramble to find folks to take the brunt off of having Cruz out there every day.  While I appreciate that he’s absorbed a lot of knowledge from Molina and, indeed, often is a capable fielder, there’s no doubt the only resemblance his hitting has to Molina is to the 2006 version (post-season home run and all).

I guess it depends on what you want from a backup.  If you want someone that can step into the starter’s shoes and make an impact or at least hold your own, I don’t think Cruz is that guy.  If you want someone that can occasionally get a hit but handle a pitching staff and is content with limited playing time behind the machine that is Yadi, Cruz can give you that.

As much as we don’t want to think about it, there’s going to come a time when Yadi isn’t going to be behind the plate for the Cardinals or isn’t the 150-game type guy that we are used to seeing.  We’ve already had him down for a few weeks during the last couple of seasons.  I’d say Cruz is great for insurance, but you want insurance to work when you need it.  Given what we’ve seen out of Cruz in extended play, I’m not sure what he brings counts in that regard.

Outlook: All that said, the Cards aren’t likely to pay for someone to ride the pine a lot while Molina starts.  With players like Carson Kelly perhaps on the way, Cruz will likely be the backup until he gets too expensive, at which time he’ll be let go.  That won’t be 2015, though.

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