Editor's note: This is the first in a 10-part series over the next two weeks that will focus on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.
Today's question: Should the Rangers re-sign Nelson Cruz?
For some folks, this question isn't a difficult one. We all know the trouble the Rangers had to consistently score runs. And you could make the argument that Cruz's value actually increased while he was suspended for 50 games because his team struggled to do much without him in the middle of the lineup in September.
When Cruz departed on Aug. 5 to serve his penalty, he led the club in home runs and RBIs. He's averaged 27 homers per year since 2009, so he has a track record of power and production. This team had a power shortage with him out of the lineup and adding bats is clearly an offseason priority. So does making a qualifying offer to Cruz (probably just under $14 million) makes sense? I think it does. Even though that's a high price to pay if he accepts it for a player that's more likely to DH than anything else, he gives the club power that it needs. And he isn't likely to accept that offer anyway as he tests the free-agent market. If he signs elsewhere, by offering arbitration, the club would receive a first-round pick.
The other reason to do it: It makes teams think twice about signing Cruz because they have to give up that pick. We saw last year that with certain players, the loss of that draft pick hurt their free-agent market. Cruz will be in pretty high demand, but a qualifying offer only increases the price for him for other clubs.
Assuming Cruz rejects it, he would be open to sign a multi-year deal with any team, including the Rangers. The question is what is fair for Cruz. His numbers this season (before the suspension) are something just about any team would want. He had 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 109 games. He batted .266, but had a .833 OPS. He was and remains a feared hitter. And with Alex Rios back for another season, Cruz could be a DH and not have to play the field unless necessary (the club could stick with Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry in the OF with Rios).
But he's also 33 years old. We've seen the Rangers be very careful about how long they sign players up, not wanting to be in a situation like the Angels where they have too much money tied up in players at an advanced age, which could limit their ability to do other things. How badly does Cruz want to stay in Texas? Would he take a two-year deal, for instance, to stay where he's comfortable? I can't think the Rangers would want to go more than three on a long-term deal and even then, with the budget, it seems questionable.
There's no question that the Rangers need a bat. Cruz fits in well in the clubhouse and his teammates like him, even after he left them for 50 games. He's comfortable in Texas and that has to help the Rangers' chances. They need a big bat. Why not get one they know (as long as the price is right)?