ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Shin-Soo Choo got up and put on a jersey with the number 17 on Friday during his introductory news conference, it was a pretty clear sign that Nelson Cruz isn't likely returning to Texas.
Cruz, who has worn 17 since blossoming into a power hitter at the big league level in a Rangers uniform, remains on the free-agent market. The Rangers, who have kept up communication with Cruz's agent, Adam Katz, don't expect the slugger to play for Texas in 2014.
"I’m not going to 100 percent close any doors, but I think realistically his best opportunity may be elsewhere and I’m expecting him to sign elsewhere," general manager Jon Daniels said shortly after the news conference with Choo ended. "But we genuinely care about the guy and appreciate what he’s done here and wanted to communicate that with him."
Daniels called Cruz and Katz when the Choo deal was finalized Saturday so that they would "hear it from us first." Daniels thanked Cruz for his time in Texas and while it wasn't a flat-out goodbye, the inference is clear that it is unlikely he'll be back. The Rangers have already busted the budget and if Cruz can get three or four years from another team, it seems that's the direction this will end up.
Cruz, 33, came over to the Rangers in 2006 as part of the Carlos Lee trade, and after struggling to hit at the big-league level -- and even clearing waivers -- Cruz got another shot and made the most of it. He has a career .268 batting average with the Rangers with 157 homers (an average of 33 per 162 games) and 489 RBIs. He's had some memorable moments in the postseason as well. I don't think I need to go over all of those.
But Friday was yet another indication that Cruz's days as a Ranger have probably come to an end.