The news general manager Jon Daniels received Sunday, well ahead of the 4 p.m. Monday deadline, from the agent for slugger Nelson Cruz did not come as a shock.
Daniels has been planning all along that Cruz would reject the Texas Rangers’ one-year qualifying offer for $14.1 million, which he did so that he can test free agency in a thin market for power hitters.
Cruz can return to the Rangers, and negotiations will continue even though multiple suitors could push his final price tag beyond Daniels’ comfort zone.
But nothing changed Monday on the first day of the GM meetings. The Rangers still need to boost their offense for the 2014 season, with or without Cruz.
“If the general speculation is accurate, there’s going to be a lot of big deals given out,” Daniels said. “With a lack of power, Nellie may very well benefit from that. I can’t really predict. We have interest, but we have a level we’ll go up to, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Rangers would receive a first-round draft pick if Cruz were to sign with another team, a form of insurance should the Rangers sign another player who rejected a qualifying offer and have to forfeit their first-rounder.
They are expected to be in the mix for free-agent catcher Brian McCann, a left-hander power hitter who would be a perfect fit at Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers have long coveted outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, another lefty hitter who doesn’t have the power of McCann but has 20-homer potential from the leadoff spot.
Cruz’s profile as a power hitter might be diminished in some minds because he used performance-enhancing drugs in 2012 and was banned for the final 50 games of 2013 as part of the Biogenesis of America investigation.
The Rangers believe his power is genuine. He had 27 homers and 76 RBIs, numbers that led the team, when he was suspended Aug. 5.
Any of their concerns lay elsewhere. He will turn 34 on July 1, and through he hasn’t been on the disabled list the past two seasons, he has been plagued by muscle issues in his legs.
His skills as an outfielder also have eroded, though Daniels said last week that the Rangers would consider using him there. A right fielder throughout his career, Cruz would have played left field, with Leonys Martin in center field and Alex Rios in right, had the Rangers advanced to the postseason.
Instead, Cruz might have played his last game in a Rangers uniform in the tiebreaker to determine the second American League wild-card entry and went 0 for 3 as the Rangers’ designated hitter in a season-ending loss to Tampa Bay.
“He’s been a big part of the club, an energy player who the fans really connected with,” Daniels said. “We have a pretty good feel for who Nelson is and what he brings. If the market gets beyond that, I understand he’ll have other things to consider.”
A.J. Preller and Mike Daly have been promoted as the Rangers completed the reorganization of their minor-league system after former farm director Tim Purpura was reassigned in September.
Preller becomes an assistant general manager who will oversee player development and scouting, and Daly is the senior director of minor league operations.
The new role isn’t a vast departure for Preller, who had been the senior director of player development. Daly had been the Rangers’ director of international scouting and has strong ties to many of the players in the system.