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.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.
Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports that the value of a qualifying offer for free agents this off-season has been set at $15.8 million. That represents an increase of a half-million dollars over last year’s value.
This is of particular interest with regards to the big-name free agents, including Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Yovani Gallardo, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija.
Teams that make a qualifying offer to a player that ends up being rejected receive a compensation draft pick in the upcoming draft. The team that signs the player who rejected a qualifying offer gives up their earliest non-protected draft pick.
Free agents who had been traded mid-season aren’t eligible to receive a qualifying offer. This includes Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist, among others.
A player has yet to accept a qualifying offer since the QO system was implemented.