Nelson Cruz elects to see the cup as half-filled as he goes about the business of finding a new home and netting a new deal.
On the one hand, the market definitely hasn’t shook out the way the now former Texas Rangers outfielder hoped or envisioned it might. But there continues to be a market, and for that Cruz can hold his head high knowing that the reputation he’s earned as one of the game’s best teammates remains firmly intact.
Even with the cloud of his 50-game steroids-related suspension hanging over his head, Cruz has attracted attention from the likes of the Royals, Mariners, Orioles, Rockies and, yes, even the Rangers.
But in the world of a 33-year-old veteran outfielder coming off his worst power numbers in some four seasons, someone not further hampered by the specter of Biogenesis, a deal is not a deal until it’s a deal. But Nelson Cruz knows 110 homers over that same time frame, 27 of them coming in just 109 games last season has to stand for something. And what of all those to-a-man affirmations from his teammates attesting to his nature as a stand-up guy?
But, in the end, business is business and as such there have been no takers on the likes of the four-year, $70 million deal he’s rumored to be seeking. The Rangers offered a year at roughly $14 million in early December and after Cruz said no, elected to go in an entirely different direction by trading for Prince Fielder and signing Shin-Soo Choo in free agency.
Given their history, the Rangers and Cruz may yet strike a deal, but chances are it won’t be for what either of them considers their ideal terms. No way, Texas offers a multi-year deal the same Toronto did with Melky Cabrera last season in a situation similar to that Cruz now faces.
Two seasons ago, Cabrera parlayed a pair of All-Star caliber seasons in San Francisco, where he hit .322 with 29 homers and 147 RBIs, into a $16 million, two-year deal with the Blue Jays. But after coming off his on 50-game, performance-enhancing drug suspension, Cabrera responded with a .279, three home runs and 30 RBI 2013 campaign.
What’s more, Cruz has played in more than 130 games just once in his nine big-league career and that was in 2012, the year prior to him being suspended for PEDs. Though branded a power hitter, one hitting in one of MLB’s hitter-friendly ballparks, no less, Cruz has never driven in more than 90 runs in a season and only eclipsed 30 homers in 2009 (33).
Cruz’s defense is also marginal at best, making him a better fit for an American League team and the role of at least part-time DH, or the right-fielder on a team with a small ballpark that make it easier for him to cover the ground he’ll be required to.
In the end, Cruz’s best option may yet lay in Texas, where the Rangers can still use a proven vet to complement the tandem of Soo Choo and Alex Rios.