Should Nelson Cruz take a one-year deal?

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We’re about a week into January and free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz is still without a home. The reasons are plentiful: he is tied to draft pick compensation, he has a history of involvement with performance-enhancing drugs, he has been prone to injuries, he is 33 years old, and he provides no value on the bases and with his defense.

As a result, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that some general managers think a one-year “pillow contract” would be a good idea for Cruz. If Cruz is able to stay out of trouble, stay healthy, and stay productive, he might have an easier time securing a multi-year deal next off-season despite being a year older.

Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre exemplified how a pillow contract can benefit a player. After finishing up an injury-plagued 2009 season with the Mariners in which he posted a career-low 83 adjusted OPS, Beltre took a one-year, $9 million deal with the Red Sox which included a $5 million second-year player option. Beltre’s adjusted OPS went up to 141 and he finished with 7.8 WAR according to Baseball Reference. During the off-season, he signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers at the age of 32.

Taking a one-year deal would be a bit of a risk to Cruz. He can likely still get a three- or four-year deal but he will have to lower his price into the Curtis Granderson area ($60 million). He could get more next off-season with a productive 2014, but he could also further sink his value if he gets hurt or struggles. In such an event, he would torpedo any hope of getting one more big deal before his career is over.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.