Seattle Mariners rumors about Nelson Cruz have moved on the next stage. Cruz is officially a Major League Baseball free agent, making it possible for him to sign with the team of his choosing this offseason. With the Boston Red Sox clinching the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers, it officially brought an end to the 2018 MLB season. Now, the Hot Stove starts heating up, with players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Nelson Cruz leading the charge into free agency.

Will Cruz leave Mariners?

In four years with the Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz hit 163 home runs, with 414 RBIs to his credit. He posted a .284 batting average to go along with a .908 OPS and 148 OPS+ in that time.

Cruz also won two Silver Slugger awards and was named to three All-Star teams during his time in Seattle. He has been one of the best power hitters in all of baseball, and he may need to be paid like it by a team this offseason.

The Mariners are in a difficult position. The team is better with Cruz in the middle of the batting order, but how much should they offer him and how many years need to be on that contract? If Cruz asks for something close to $20 million per year, that might just price him out of the Seattle market. Would he do a reasonable deal and defer some money in order to give Seattle a hometown discount? That might be the only way that he decides to re-sign with the team.

Other teams will want Cruz as well

Now that Nelson Cruz is a free agent, he is going to generate the interest of many franchises.

It has become clear that he needs to remain a designated hitter, though, so it gives American League teams the best chance of signing him. That raises another interesting question, as teams like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees already have players assigned to that role for the 2019 MLB season. Could that help the Mariners in a pursuit to re-sign Cruz? Or could a surprise team be waiting in the wings to overpay for a boost on offense?

Last year, the Robinson Cano suspension [VIDEO] really set the team back a bit. Cano returned strong, but the team ended up missing the playoffs again. Some good news was that starting pitcher Marco Gonzales emerged as a great addition [VIDEO] to the rotation. The Mariners will need him to come back strong, but the rotation might need another arm or two to elevate itself to the next level. When the offseason Seattle Mariners rumors really get started, though the Nelson Cruz situation will be center stage, fans should also expect the team to be linked to every available starting pitcher.