Rangers keeping in touch with Nelson Cruz, could re-sign him if price becomes “reasonable”

9 Comments

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.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

Getty Images
11 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.