For months, it has been widely assumed that Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz will not be on the team in 2014. His name is not even on the depth chart. The 34-year-old Cruz, who is coming off a 50-game drug suspension, wants a muliyear deal. So far, only the Seattle Mariners have been willing to oblige. Months of speculation and contract talks have failed to materialize in an offer, and some speculate that Seattle’s interest may be waning, especially in light of the Robinson Cano signing a few months ago.
The Rangers have had a qualifying offer on the table since last November: $14.1 million for one year. Back then, Cruz thought his options were a one-year deal with Texas or a multiyear deal with basically any other American League team that needed a slugger. Now, three months later and on the cusp of Spring Training, it appears that Cruz’s options may be a one-year deal with Texas or hope that the phone rings later.
The Dallas Morning News recently speculated that the Rangers may want to bring in Cruz as the designated hitter for one year. To save some money, part of his $14 million salary could be deferred. Cruz may also agree to a lower-risk deal that features a low base salary and various incentives clauses based on number of at-bats, postseason appearances, postseason awards and the like.
Such a move may make popular veteran and current DH Mitch Moreland expendable. Several teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, have a need at first base. A trade could be good for both the player and the club: Moreland can play in the field (most players do not like being a DH, because of the extended down-time and perception that a DH is not a complete ballplayer) and the Rangers can free up some salary room. If available, Cruz is a better option than Moreland, because Cruz is a more aggressive hitter.
Currently, there are no ongoing talks between the Rangers and Cruz.