Does Ian Kinsler’s Contract Extension Make Josh Hamilton or Nelson Cruz the ‘Odd Man Out’?

The 2012 Texas Rangers have a problem that most teams in baseball would love to have, and it has to do with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz.  The Rangers are coming off back-to-back AL Championships, have a growing fan base, a great team, more money then they have ever had, and a minor league system that is easily in the top 10 in the league. Led by GM John Daniels and Nolan Ryan they have crafted a recipe for success that mixes veteran leaders, stars, and young up-and-coming talent that is creating a baseball powerhouse for years to come.  The problem that the Rangers have is deciding which of their soon to be free agent stars they should keep, and which one(s) they let walk into type A free agency so they can net a few draft picks to continue the cycle of success.

Mar 14, 2012; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (5) reacts after flying out to start off the bottom of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Ian Kinsler was one of the Rangers stars that they were looking to get locked up to a long term contract; the Ranges signed Kinsler on a 5yr. $75M contract extension with a club option for the 6th year.  Kinsler made the move back into the leadoff position last season, and he had another 30-30(HR-SB) season making him only the 12th player all-time to have multiple 30-30 seasons in a career. If he has just one more 30-30 season in his career, he will join a club of only 5 who have 3 or more season boasting those statistics.  Those tools mixed with his defensive ability make him one of the best 2B in baseball, but Kins has found himself on the disabled list every year of his career, and there was the question of what the Rangers would do when the #7 prospect in baseball SS Jurickson Profar is ready for the show.  The extension puts that topic on the back burner as Kinsler is the second baseman for the forceable future, he has played his entire career in Texas and at 29 he should still have plenty of good baseball ahead of him.

Apr 9, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton (32) celebrates a solo home run in the fourth inning with third baseman Adrian Beltre against the Seattle Mariners at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

 

The only player that the Rangers have to make a decision on this year is Hamilton (Cruz is signed through the end of the 2013 season), but there aren’t many scenarios in which the Rangers could sign all three players to long-term deals.  Hamilton is the most dynamic of the three…. heck the 2010 MVP may be the most dynamic player in the entire league; he proved it during Sunday nights 5-0 win over the White Sox when he made two incredible plays in center and hit a 441-foot bomb to right-center.  Someone who knows nothing about baseball could watch Hamilton once and see that the talent is remarkable, but his well documented past of drug and alcohol abuse mixed with a relapse this spring, and the fact that he has only played more than 133 games once in his career are huge red flags. Hamilton has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Rangers, but he wants fair market value.  If he continues to play at this level, it is hard to imagine the Rangers not giving him a long-term deal despite his off the field troubles.

Apr 6, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz stretches prior to his at bat in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox during opening day at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Nelson Cruz has become one of the fiercest power hitters in baseball since becoming an everyday starter in 2009. After bouncing back and forth from AAA to the big league club, he looks like he’s here to stay for quite some time.  Cruz has become a fan favorite who’s name echoes through the Rangers Ballpark during at bats, but he is also the most fragile of Texas’ All-Stars: he has not started more than 128 games in a season, and he was nagged by groin injuries last season.  Although Cruz did go through a new workout regimen during the off-season with Mike Napoli and lost 15 pounds, he needs to be healthy for the Rangers to consider making him one of the guys they lock up long term. There are 5 all-star trips between the two and they have both had a hand in the Rangers success over the past two seasons, I have to believe Nelson Cruz will be the odd man out after the 2013 season, so the Rangers can usher Profar in to play second and possibly shift Kinsler to the outfield.

The Rangers have shown that just because a player is loved by the fans, like all three of these guys, they are not afraid to let them walk into free agency like they did with C.J. Wilson not long ago.  JD and Nolan will have to make tough decisions in the next 12 months that will shape the future of the Rangers, but the past has shown that we can trust that they will make the right decision.  It’s a good problem to have, lets hope that it has to be made in October after another trip to the World Series.

If you had to choose between Cruz and Hamilton, who would you keep, considering their age, injury proneness, and salary?

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Topics: AL West, Contract, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, MLB Free Agency, Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

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  • Dallas3026

    Do you think it is impossible to keep them both because of $, or just that the Rangers history suggests that they would rather have draft picks?

    • Jbrumit

       @Dallas3026 If you asked me a few years ago if they could keep them then no way but the new ownership has shown that they will throw money out there to keep a good team on the field.  I have to think they will be smart here and let a guy walk though, the pics aren’t as big a factor as having cheap young talent coming up that will be ready by the time Cruz or Hami hits FA.  But the likelihood of keeping all three seems to be going up because kins is already locked up and reports are that Hami’s agent and the Rangers have opened negotiations back up. If a deal gets done with him they will have until the end of next season to decide what they want to do with Curz and another successful year or a trip to the WS could convince the Rangers to sign him as well..

      • Dallas3026

         @Jbrumit I am convinced then: keep them all!

        • Jbrumit

           @Dallas3026 I wouldn’t mind that at all, it will be interesting to see what they do next.

      • jbbravo

        @Jbrumit good point about having a lot of time to think about the move if Josh is signed soon. I like Josh I just hate seeing these guys waste talent like this. Someone told me a recovering addict will have a couple of relapses before they fully beat their addiction. So I hope this is just one of those relapses. I don’t think the Rangers will let him go but I also think Josh needs to give some sort of discount because not a lot of teams are going to try so hard to help him. Like giving him someone to look after him. I like Cruz and he is a big reason we made it to the championship but Josh is the better player all around.

        • Jbrumit

           @jbbravo  @Jbrumit I have no doubt that if he signs a long term deal that the contract will have some sort of out clause in it or something to the effect of if something goes wrong the Rangers have the ability to save money or terminate the contract.  If JD doesn’t put something like that in a potential deal i would shocked, that being said he is an incredible talent who’s playing very well and the relapse has been forgotten by plenty of fans. I feel like a grown man shouldn’t have to be looked after by someone else even if he’s given a ton of money but he’s been a big part of the Rangers success and I’d love to see him be a part of it in the future.

  • matt_barbour

    It’s a tough call, but I think I let Hamilton walk.  The money he is going to command combined with the fact that he’s going to want 4-5 guaranteed years makes him too big of a risk IMHO.

    • Jbrumit

       @matt_barbour If I’m calling the shots I may do the same thing just because of the risk factor and he will be so expensive. Its tough as a fan because of the way he’s been playing.

  • cjwright

    I don’t know anything about Jurickson Profar, but do you think they would really move Kinsler from 2nd base?  Do you think Kinsler could be effective in the OF?  I still don’t really understand why he moved from SS in the first place.

    • Jbrumit

       @cjwright Kinsler to the OF is the feling among scouts and people who cover the Rangers right now if they don’t sign one of the two. Elvis is staying put and although Profar loses some value at 2B because his plus power at SS translates to mediocre power for a 2B he’s close to a cant miss spec who’s young and moving up fast the same way Elvis did.  

  • GhostOfRubenSierra

    The Rangers will benefit if the “business” of baseball prevails over the fan’s hopes and dreams.  Josh Hamilton is a scouts dream in terms of tools and talent, but the reasons for letting him walk are numerous.  I believe he will never live up to a long term contract.  The fans of the Texas Rangers have been more than supportive to him and I will wish him well if he signs elsewhere.

    • Jbrumit

       @GhostOfRubenSierra Good point Ruben. I agree and believe him walking is a strong possibility, the Rangers may be negotiating with Hamilton right now but I think the price will be very steep especially if he hits the open market.  The Rangers don’t have to overpay for free agents they have enough talent and they develop their youth very well.

  • Baylordb

    Good stuff! I think you are spot on on all these guys. Its going to be super tough to decide what moves to make when the time comes. As for me I would almost think of keeping hammy over cruz though, yes cruz was the Al Championship MVP but like you said he has been the one who has been on the DL the most in recent years. I also think it is an easy (and smart) move for kinsler to hop over to right field when the times comes to bring profar up. The draft compensation for Cruz is only an added bonus in the overall picture, and I feel like its a move that the rangers will need to make in order to stay young and not run up the bill too much, especially when your going to have big deals to make with a guy like Feliz at some point in the future. 
     
    So I would keep hammy and let cruz walk… but i’m glad I will never be the one to make that decision.

    • Jbrumit

      Lots of good points by everyone today about who to keep and let go and I don’t think the Rangers could go wrong with either one.  I am very excited for the furute of the team.

  • Erasmus

    I think that DeMarcus Ware would make a great closer.   I bet Jason Witten could hit 50 home runs.

    • Jbrumit

      haha I bet both of them could swing the bat a little bit.

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