An estimated 300 fans stood in line Wednesday night in southwest Fort Worth for what might be their final glance at Nelson Cruz.
The free-agent outfielder hopes he and the Texas Rangers can find an agreement that would keep him swinging for the fences at Rangers Ballpark, but didn’t seem hopeful as he talked about the business side of baseball.
General manager Jon Daniels, speaking earlier in the day in Dallas at the annual media holiday luncheon, didn’t give much reason to be optimistic about a reunion either.
The Rangers, he said in a familiar refrain, are likely out on any additional big-ticket off-season acquisitions. Barring Cruz and the Rangers finding middle ground, and Rangers not first doing so with Shin-Soo Choo, the Boomstick will be elsewhere in 2014.
“It’s been tough, but I understand it’s part of the process,” said Cruz, who participated in a toy drive benefiting ACH Child and Family Services at an area T-Mobile store. “Hopefully, we’ll work something out. It’s something that’s a fit for me and my family. We’ve talked. They say that they want me, but it’s a business.”
The business aspect is Cruz’s contract demands and what the Rangers want to pay him. The Rangers don’t appear interested in giving him the maximum deal he is seeking, as many as four years at more than $15 million annually, but would prefer two guaranteed years and possibly a club or vesting option.
Daniels also isn’t interested in paying Choo’s current asking price of seven years, $153 million, which is what another Scott Boras client, Jacoby Ellsbury, received from the New York Yankees.
The Rangers are also considering how far they are willing to go with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who has yet to be posted by his team in Nippon Professional Baseball.
MLB and NPB have finally reached an agreement on a new posting system, with a player free to negotiate with any team willing to pay a $20 million fee if it signs him. It won’t hurt the Rangers, or any team, to find out Tanaka’s level of interest if he hits the market.
“It takes some of the unknown out of it,” Daniels said. “I think this is just more of a transparent way of going about it.”
The Choo and Tanaka markets could ultimately keep Cruz wondering where he’ll end up. He didn’t know what to expect entering his first go-round as a free agent, and he seems surprised to not have signed yet.
The 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs might be a factor, though it didn’t sway St. Louis from signing fellow PED user Jhonny Peralta. But signing Cruz will cost a team draft-pick compensation.
That could also be a factor in why he remains available, though several who also rejected one-year qualifying offers have signed with new teams.
“My agent is doing a great job keeping me calm,” said Cruz, who is represented by Adam Katz.
If Cruz is waiting on the Rangers, he could be on hold for a while.
“We like our team. We’re open to adding to it,” Daniels said. “We’ve talked about some everyday players. We’ve talked about some more complementary players. We’ve talked about adding some depth to the pitching staff.
“But we’re not close to anything. We don’t have any pending offers or anything like that. There are a number of players out there that we like, but my expectation is that at the top of the market it’s unlikely for us.”