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A healthy Oneil Cruz will be worth the wait until next season

As August nears, so does the clock on Oneil Cruz’ rehab, but should the Pirates bring him back this season?

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day
Pittsburgh Pirates’ shortstop, Oneil Cruz, should not be rushed back from injury.
Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the season is underway, and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization is underwater. The Buccos are drowning as of late with underwhelming performances from established players and rookies still trying to find their footing at the next level. There is still an outside chance that the Pirates could clinch a playoff spot, but with the way things have been going, it is slim.

With the dire circumstances surrounding the team, there is little to no reason to rush the rehab process of star shortstop Oneil Cruz.

When the Pirates were rolling at the beginning of the season, Cruz went down with a fractured ankle in an early April contest against the Chicago White Sox. The injury landed him on the 60-day injured list, with surgery soon to follow. The procedure was put in place to stabilize a fractured fibula. The surgery and recovery put his timeline to return at about four months, marking August as the soonest we could see a return from the 6’7’’ shortstop.

As August approaches. many have began to speculate if Cruz would make a comeback after missing what could be 100-plus games. At this point in time, I think there is too much upside for next year to rush the rehab and return of Cruz.

Pittsburgh has just fallen to the bottom of the NL Central standings, 11.5 games back from first with a 2-8 record in the last 10 games. The prospect of a playoff push is once again slim to none, however, this is the weakest the division has looked in some time. On the other hand, Cincinnati has skyrocketed to looking like one of the best teams in baseball and Milwaukee is having a second half revival to regain their position atop the standings.

With all of those factors accounted for, Cruz would likely be playing largely meaningless baseball. Now of course it would be great to see that he’s healed since that injury, and it would certainly put butts in seats, but outside of that, I see almost no positives. Cruz only had 32 at bats before going to the IL and would be at a disadvantage against pitchers in mid to late season form.

There is also the obvious risk of him reaggravating the injury. A player of his height should not be rushing any kind of rehab process, especially of his lower extremities. A player that has been described as irreplaceable should not be thrust into situations where he cannot succeed and where he could sustain further injury.

The Pirates this year in my opinion have largely been mismanaged, as I truly do believe that we have players that could help make the team successful. In that same vein, it would be a complete mismanagement nightmare if we saw Oneil Cruz return to competition this year. The Jolly Roger is not being raised nearly enough to bring a player of his caliber onto this ever sinking ship. 2024 is going to be a huge year for Cruz, because he is going to be refreshed and hungry for competition from sitting out for so long, and I guarantee it’ll be worth the wait.