The Mariners, Mets, and Orioles have all been linked to free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz over the past couple of weeks, but March is approaching and the 33-year-old remains unsigned. Could a return to the Rangers become an option if this saga continues?
According to Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, the Texas front office has maintained regular contact with Cruz and his agent Adam Katz and could bring him back in 2014 if the asking price becomes “reasonable.”
“We’ve touched base every week or so,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told MLB.com on Wednesday in Surprise, Arizona. “Nellie’s highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves [for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo] and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we’ll see where it goes. It’s a unique situation for him as a free agent. … When we made our decision to sign Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz’s] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don’t know what’s going on with other teams and Nellie. … If that came to pass, we would talk about it.”
Cruz batted .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI in 109 games last season for Texas before getting suspended in August for purchasing PEDs from the Biogenesis clinic. He declined a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers in November, tying his free agency to draft pick compensation.
The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.
Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.
Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.
While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.
“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”