To Texas Ranger fans this off-season could be categorized as “disappointing” due to players like Josh Hamilton, and Mike Napoli leaving via free agency, Michael Young being traded away, and failing to sign/acquire big time talent like Zack Greinke, James Shields, Justin Upton, or R.A. Dickey. While they did add Lance Berkman, and A.J. Pierzynski to help with losing 75HR’s and 251RBI’s from the 3 players mentioned above, Nelson Cruz was someone the Rangers were expecting to fill the void. That could all change after a report by the Miami New Times on January 29th said that Nelson Cruz, among others, was a client to an anti-aging clinic in Miami that was selling performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. Anthony Bosch, the head of the clinic, reportedly sold $4,000 worth of products to Cruz in 2012.
On the list with Cruz were Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon (who were both suspended last season for using PED’s) and Alex Rodriguez who admitted to using PED’s in 2009. That, along with the growing accuracy of PED reports in Major League Baseball and other professional sports makes it look like Nelson Cruz did in fact use PED’s. Cruz’s law firm issued a statement last week denying the allegations, saying:
“We are aware of certain allegations and inferences. To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied.”
While no sufficient proof has surfaced yet, Cruz has never failed a drug test in his 8-year career, and MLB in-season HGH testing wont go into affect until this season, it doesn’t mean he can’t be disciplined. Many people with knowledge of the situation believe that the players in the report will be disciplined by the league, which for Cruz that could mean a 50 game suspension for being a first time offender. Cruz played in 159 games last season, more than any in his career that has been hampered by injury and trained in Florida to try and get in better shape, two facts that don’t help his case.
Cruz has been a Texas Rangers fan favorite since he stuck with the ML squad in 2009, chats of “CRUZ” could be mistaken for boos if you weren’t familiar with the team as they echo through Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during home games. He hit a walk-off grand slam in game 2 of the 2011 ALCS that helped propel the Rangers to their 2nd straight World Series appearance, something most Rangers fans will never forget. No matter what happens with these allegations, it seems as though we are at a time in baseball history where PED’s will be a storyline year after year.
The Texas Rangers will report to spring training on February 15th with management in a tough spot awaiting the decision of MLB and mulling over options if Cruz is in fact suspended. The only free-agent outfielder that could help is Michael Bourn, a client of Scott Boras who will be looking for a deal of around 5-years $75M. A contract that big is something the Rangers wouldn’t want to do unless they feel they are forced to. If they decide to stay in house to fill a hole created by the potential suspension, moving Ian Kinsler to a corner OF spot and starting 19-year old phenom Jurickson Profar at 2nd base may be the best option if Kinsler would agree to move positions, something he already said no to when asked to move to 1st base. 1B Mitch Moreland could play RF but is a defensive liability and 23-year old Cuban defector Leonys Martín has only played a handful of games at the ML level. Martin, who the Rangers signed to a 5-year $15.5M deal in 2011, may have the most upside of all the options but he’s unproven despite hitting a combined .323 in his only 2 season of baseball in the minors. Whatever decisions MLB and the Texas Rangers decide to make in the coming weeks it doesn’t change the fact that a team that appeared in 2 straight World Series’ is heading in the wrong direction.