4. The Carlos Lee/Nelson Cruz Trade
Cruz was our big outfield prospect in 2005 and 2006 and he was poised to take over the outfield spot that would’ve been left by Carlos Lee after Lee entered free agency after the 2006 season.
The Milwaukee Brewers were not contenders in 2006 and, with a big slugger entering free agency that winter, it made sense to trade him to a contender and acquire some prospects in return to build for the future.
So in July 2006, the Brewers and the Texas Rangers made a deal that sent four players, Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero to Milwaukee in exchange for Carlos Lee and… Nelson Cruz.
When you trade veterans for prospects at the deadline, you don’t throw in your best prospect!
Francisco Cordero turned out okay, dominating with the Crew in 2006 and 2007, earning an All-Star nod and notching 60 saves over a year and a half. But then he became a free agent and signed with the division rival Reds.
Kevin Mench was a bust, and so was Laynce Nix. Both were failed prospects. But you know who didn’t turn out to be a failed prospect? That’s right, Nelson Cruz.
Cruz slugged big time for the Texas Rangers and has turned into one of the league’s most prominent power hitters. For his career, Cruz has 360 home runs and has hit 20+ home runs a season for each of the past ten seasons. Sure, he’s been primarily a DH the past couple years, but he would’ve been an impactful outfielder in Milwaukee for a number of years during his prime.
Just imagine a Brewers outfield with Nelson Cruz and Ryan Braun, who arrived the next season. Then with Prince Fielder also in the heart of that lineup, the power surge at Miller Park would’ve been incredible.
But nope, because Doug Melvin traded away a big time prospect during a non-contending year as he was trying to build a contender. I wish he was kidding when he said he’d include Cruz in the deal, but here we are.