Rangers make one-year qualifying offer to Cruz
Slugger has seven days to accept or reject $14.1 million deal for 2014
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have extended a qualifying offer to outfielder Nelson Cruz worth $14.1 million for the 2014 season. Cruz, who would prefer a multi-year deal, has until next Monday at 4 p.m. CT to accept the offer. He is expected to decline the offer.
If Cruz declines the offer, the Rangers can continue to negotiate with him and would also receive Draft-pick compensation at the end of the first round in 2014 if he signs with another team. The Rangers received the 30th overall pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft as compensation for Josh Hamilton signing with the Angels, and took high school infielder Travis Demeritte.
The Rangers are preparing for the likelihood of Cruz turning down the offer and exploring the free-agent market.
"It all comes down to what Nelson is looking for and what the market is," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're interested in bringing him back, but it has to be the right fit. This is a unique opportunity for him, so I would expect he wants to see what is out there. We'll continue to talk to them."
Cruz just finished a two-year, $16 million contract that included a $10.5 million salary for 2013. But Cruz was suspended for the final 50 games of the season without pay for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Policy.
Cruz, who was acquired from the Brewers on July 28, 2006, hit .266 with 27 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage in 109 games this past season before being suspended. He has hit 157 home runs in eight seasons for the Rangers, sixth most in club history. He is 14th with 489 RBIs, and fourth with a .495 slugging percentage.
The Rangers went into the offseason searching for more power for their offense. They are in need of a catcher, left fielder and/or designated hitter. Cruz has been primarily a right fielder for the Rangers but has played some left field. After he was suspended, the Rangers acquired Alex Rios from the White Sox to take over in right field. Rios, who is signed for 2014, has only played one game in left field in his career while Cruz has played 57 games at the position.
The Rangers' current leading candidate to play left field is Craig Gentry, who hit .280 with a .373 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage in 106 games and 246 at-bats in 2013. He also had 24 stolen bases. Gentry was the Rangers' Player of the Month for September.
Qualifying offers could impact a player's market if teams are reluctant to give up a Draft pick as compensation. The Braves have extended a qualifying offer to catcher Brian McCann. The Rangers have already talked to McCann's agent to express their interest in the seven-time All-Star, but the loss of a Draft pick could temper their pursuit unless they get one back should Cruz sign with another team.
Four prominent free-agent outfielders also received qualifying offers and have until Monday, Nov. 11, to accept: Curtis Granderson from the Yankees; Shin-Soo Choo from the Reds; Jacoby Ellsbury from the Red Sox; and Carlos Beltran from the Cardinals. The Mariners extended a qualifying offer to designated hitter Kendrys Morales, a player who could also be of interest to the Rangers. The Red Sox have also extended a qualifying offer to first baseman Mike Napoli but did not do so to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Daniels said whether or not the Rangers lose a Draft pick will be "a factor" in their discussions with the available free agents.
"It's definitely something we'll take into consideration," Daniels said. "We gave up a Draft pick when we signed Adrian Beltre, and I would do that again 10 days out of 10. But not all free agents work out as well. We have to take that into consideration. We obviously have a good club and we're going to make moves to improve the club, but we are also very mindful of the long term."
The Rangers did not extend qualifying offers to their other free agents, most notably catcher A.J. Pierzynski, pitcher Joe Nathan and outfielder David Murphy. They were not in a position to extend a qualifying offer to pitcher Matt Garza because he was acquired in a midseason trade. Those players are exempt from the qualifying-offer process and the Rangers will not receive compensation if Garza signs with another team.
Wolf re-signs; Blackley free agent
The Rangers have re-signed pitcher Ross Wolf to a Minor League contract after taking him off the 40-man roster. Pitcher Travis Blackley has refused outright assignment to Triple-A and become a free agent.
Wolf was 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts and 19 relief appearances for the Rangers this past season. He will come to camp with a chance to compete for a job in the bullpen. Blackley was 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance after being acquired from the Astros.
The Rangers also re-instated pitchers Matt Harrison and Edwar Cabrera from the 60-man disabled list and placed them on the 40-man roster. Harrison missed most of last season with a back injury but is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Perez named Rangers top rookie
Pitcher Martin Perez has been named the Rangers' Rookie of the Year by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Perez was 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts for the Rangers. In 124 1/3 innings, he allowed 129 hits, 37 walks and 84 strikeouts. He will be honored on Jan. 24 at the Rangers Mid-Winter Banquet at the Gaylord Texan Resort.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.