NEW YORK — Signs are pointing to Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz avoiding a potential suspension this season, if MLB hands him one and he appeals it.Cruz is one of several big leaguers who allegedly received banned substances from a defunct anti-aging clinic in South Florida that has been at the center of an MLB investigation since January.Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB Players Association chief Michael Weiner spoke at length about the Biogenesis of America scandal during their annual question-and-answer sessions with the Baseball Writers Association of America, and indicated that possible suspensions might be delayed to the 2014 season.The only thing I can say about the investigation is that its thorough, its comprehensive and its aggressive, Selig said. When theyre done with the investigation, that will be the time no matter what time of the season is it. We have to do what we have to do.Selig said he is sensitive to teams such as the Rangers who are trying to make plans for a second-half push without knowing the fate of their players, but said the No. 1 priority remained completing the investigation.Still, even if MLB feels it has a strong enough case to suspend Cruz, he would have the right to appeal it. That process could happen as early as September, Weiner said, but the arbitrator might not make a final ruling until a few weeks after the hearing.There is a possibility that Cruz could serve a potential suspension this season, too, if he, his agents and the union feel its in their best interest to negotiate out a mutual agreement with MLB on length of suspension.Cruz would have several factors to weigh in making that potential decision. He is set to hit the free agent market, and his value could decrease significantly if he has a suspension looming next season. Weiner added that MLB is not bound to the 50- or 100-game suspensions, or lifetime ban, associated with failed drug tests. The players have not failed tests and are being investigated for non-analytical reasons. Therefore, MLB could hand out suspensions ranging from five games to 500 games, Weiner said.Weiner expects MLB to complete its investigation within a month, and then the two sides will meet to discuss the findings. At that point, assuming hes subject to a suspension, Cruz and his agents will have to decide how they feel about the evidence MLB has as to whether to appeal a potential suspension or negotiate one.Cruz has been peppered with questions the past two days about the investigation, but said it hasnt taken away from his second All-Star experience.It is what it is, Cruz said. Im here to focus on the All-Star Game. There was no doubt there were going to be questions, but Im focused on the game. Thats the most important thing.Trade chatterThe trade rumors are in full force, and unsurprisingly, the Rangers have been linked to several players already on the market, most prominently Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza.Garza, who will become a free agent after the season, is considered the best pitcher on the market at this point and has gone 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA over his last five starts. He would be a nice upgrade in the Rangers rotation, although a deal will ultimately depend on the Cubs asking price.Still, the rumors have made their way to the players and count Rangers closer Joe Nathan as one who would welcome a trade for Garza. Nathan saw Garza come up through the Twins organization, and said hes the type of player who could certainly boost a second-half push.Hes a top of the rotation kind of guy, very intense and just a solid competitor, Nathan said. Thats a guy you want on your club. He can definitely help a ballclub. We are coming into that trade deadline time and the Rangers arent afraid to go out and make moves, so well see what happens and what our team looks like on Aug. 1.Briefly• The Rangers have no plans to bring up Manny Ramirez to start the second half. They are still evaluating his progress at Triple A Round Rock. He is batting .300 with three home runs and six RBIs in his first eight games with the Express.• MLB executive vice president Joe Torre said he is fairly confident there will be expanded instant replay in place next year. Torre said were still in the tweaking stages as to what it would all entail. An agreement would be needed with the players and umpires unions to implement it.• Commissioner Bud Selig said he is very much in favor of an international draft, saying: In fact, Im impatient on that but were working towards that end. An international draft has been talked about quite a bit recently, but there have been logistical difficulties in implementing it.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison