-- In a week that promises to be full of moves designed to somehow, some way ignite their stagnant offense, the Washington Nationals acquired infielder Deivi Cruz from the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday, a trade that could mean the end of Cristian Guzman's disastrous tenure as the Nationals' everyday shortstop.
"We're just looking for a spark here," General Manager Jim Bowden said prior to Tuesday's game against the Atlanta Braves.
To land Cruz, a .269 career hitter who rarely walks, the Nationals gave up Class A right-hander Ben Cox, a 19th-round selection in last year's draft. Cruz, who is scheduled to join the Nationals at least in time for the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader with the Braves, has a reputation for swinging at bad pitches, the origin of Guzman's problem. But while Guzman entered Tuesday's game hitting a horrific .196 with an on-base percentage of .238 -- 43 points lower than the next-worst offensive player in baseball, Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson -- Cruz's average in 81 games for the Giants was .268, his on-base percentage .301.
Bowden said he met with Manager Frank Robinson before making the trade, and that Robinson was "on board" with the decision. Robinson wasn't available to comment between the time the trade was made and the start of the game. The thinking, Bowden said, is to give Robinson, who is managing a team that has scored the fewest runs in baseball, more offensive options. Cruz could also play second base, where Jose Vidro is battling two bad quadriceps muscles.
"Guzzy's hitting under .200 with September [arriving] on Thursday," Bowden said. "Vidro's playing on sore quads and is going to have to play hurt the rest of the year. We're not scoring any runs. . . . We need some choices. I need to give Frank some choices. Between trading for him and our call-ups on Thursday, he's going to have some choices, and he's going to have some fresh legs and bodies that may spark the guys they have now, or maybe he gets in and sparks the team that way."
Cox was 4-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 42 appearances, all in relief, for Savannah. Nationals scouts don't project him to be a major leaguer. Cruz, a free agent at the end of this season, has a base salary of $800,000. He will cost the Nationals about $136,000 for the rest of the year.
Major league rosters can expand from 25 to 40 on Thursday, the first day of September, and Bowden said the Nationals may add as many as 10 players, an unusually high number. Teams typically add five or six players for a postseason run. But Bowden believes the Nationals' offense is so limited, he must add whatever he can find. Therefore, not only will top prospect Ryan Zimmerman join the club on Thursday, but Class AAA outfielders Kenny Kelly, Tyrell Godwin and Brandon Watson -- all fleet-footed -- should arrive as well. So should infielder Rick Short, who flirted with hitting .400 for Class AAA New Orleans.
The Nationals will be Cruz's sixth team in his nine-year major league career. The knock against him is his lack of plate discipline; he has never drawn more than 22 walks in a season, and his career-high on-base percentage was a pedestrian .322 with the Giants last season.
But even those numbers are a vast improvement over Guzman.
"He and Zimmerman are going to give [Robinson] alternatives," Bowden said. "And that may be to start. It may be to back up. It may be to double-switch. But in a game where we're not scoring, he's going to have a lot of different ammunition he hasn't had all year."
Infielder Deivi Cruz, above, could be one of many additions to the offense this week, GM Jim Bowden said.Nats shortstop Cristian Guzman, who has struggled in the field and at the plate, may see playing time reduced.