Nelson Cruz remains on the free agent market and a reunion with the Texas Rangers hasn’t gained much traction. But the longer he’s available, the more that could become a possibility.
The market for Cruz hasn’t developed as expected. He turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers early in the off-season, which means his signing team has to forfeit a draft pick that goes to the Rangers. He also served a 50-game suspension last season for his ties in the Biogenesis of America scandal.
Those issues appear to have outweighed his production on the field. Cruz, 33, had 27 home runs and 76 RBIs last season despite his suspension. It marked the fifth consecutive season in which Cruz has driven in at least 76 runs and his fifth consecutive season with at least 22 home runs.
Asked if seeing a player like Cruz still on the market surprised him, Rangers manager Ron Washington said: “A power hitter like him? I am. But you never know the reasons behind it. He was a very productive player for us.”
Several teams have been linked to Cruz including the Mariners, Orioles, Mets and Twins, but he has yet to land a deal as spring training camps opened this week. The Rangers would also make sense as a fallback option for Cruz. They could still use a right-handed power bat at designated hitter and also deepen the lineup that is strong one-through-five.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik spoke at the Cactus League Media Day on Tuesday night, but wouldn’t discuss his team’s interest in Cruz.
“I will say we’ve talked to just about every free agent player that’s out there this year,” Zduriencik said. “That’s as fair as I can say it. You never say never. You never know with anybody, with any player.”
But count Zduriencik among the group of most general managers that aren’t feeling too sorry for the remaining free agents such as Cruz or Kendrys Morales that turned down qualifying offers.
“Every player has turned down a qualifying offer, a substantial amount of money,” he said. “I know every player would love to be able to hit the jackpot and every player would like to have a long-term deal. But, at the end of the day, that’s a significant amount of money for any player to walk away from.”