The Texas Rangers learned along with everyone else this week that outfielder Nelson Cruz was one of the names found in documents from the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic that suggest some type of association with PEDs. While MLB investigates the report, Cruz has issued this statement through his lawyers:
“We are aware of certain allegations and inferences. To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied.”
As of now, nothing else has come from Cruz in the way of a defense or response, and that is not a good sign. While Cruz might be hoping that this all just goes away as he prepares to suit up for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming WBC, the Rangers need to be more realistic.
If Cruz is suspended for any significant length of time, the Rangers outfield—a threesome that no longer includes Josh Hamilton—will be in complete disarray.
Right now, the Rangers have 29-year-old Craig Gentry penciled in as their starting center fielder. Gentry has played parts of four seasons in Texas, finally getting a long look last year. He saw action in 122 games but had just 240 at-bats, as late-inning defense was his strong point. The loss of Cruz would likely propel light-hitting rookie Leonys Martin into a starting role. The third outfielder is David Murphy, whose 15 homers last season are 13 more than Gentry and Martin had collectively in their 536 career plate appearances. Needless to say, power—or lack thereof—will be a major problem if Cruz is suspended.
The Rangers should probably act sooner rather than later in order to acquire some depth in the outfield. This late in the off-season, very little remains on the free agent market that might help Texas, so they may be forced to make a trade if they hope to have any chance of competing with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics in the NL West.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)