Here we are, almost finished with January, and Nelson Cruz still remains a free agent. With the huge Mashahiro Tanaka signing by the New York Yankees passing, it is time for other notable stars to get some press attention.
Let me put this out flat: I like Nelson Cruz. I don’t think he is a necessary part of this Texas Rangers team that has made some big pickups in the offseason, but he certainly couldn’t hurt their chances of making it out of the stacked AL West. Here are a few factors that could influence Cruz’s return to Arlington.
Everyone can agree that, if at all possible, placing Nelson Cruz in a starting defensive role in the outfield should be avoided. With Leonys Martín in center, Shin Soo Choo in left, and Alex Ríos in right, there is no need for a mediocre outfielder who made more errors than assists last year.
However, looking over in the dugout, the Rangers are starting Mitch Moreland at DH. Moreland definitely saw his power numbers increase last season, hitting 23 long balls compared to his 15 from 2012. On the other hand, at the end of the year his batting average was only .232. To me, that doesn’t sound like a starting DH. Besides, Cruz was able to put up 27 home runs in only half a season. While Mitch Moreland gets a nod of approval for the increased power numbers, at this point he just isn’t the same hitter as Cruz.
I think that the biggest issue with pulling the trigger on a Cruz deal is that the Rangers’ presently need to be more concerned with their pitching rotation than choosing between a DH that hit 23 home runs and one that hit 27. Losing Derek Holland for the first half of the season takes their #2 starter out of the rotation, and Matt Garza signing with the Brewers yesterday hurts them even further. Landing Tanaka could have been huge for Texas, but they missed that boat too. Signing another good free agent such as Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Bronson Arroyo could be a better use of the team’s time and money than pursuing Nelson Cruz. At the end of the day, you can’t win without pitching.
Cruz’s original asking price of $75 million for four years should be out the window by this point. If he remains stubborn with his contract specifications I would not blame the Rangers for just passing him on to Detroit or another team that could use the power.
Personally, I wouldn’t sign Cruz for anything more than a two-year deal. Power is not scarce on this Texas Rangers team with big hitters Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder right in the middle of the order, so Cruz is not a necessity. Some people may remain skeptical of Cruz’s true potential without the influence of PED’s and I accept that point. Only time will tell if Nelson Cruz will be able to pick up where he left off before his 50-game suspension, but that man can sure swing the bat.