COMMENTARY | The Texas Rangers are hanging on to first place in the American League West by a thread. And now they are facing the possibility of a long suspension of their home run and RBI leader, right fielder Nelson Cruz, who is currently being investigated for using performance-enhancing drugs.
It is still possible that Cruz will not be suspended. But the Rangers need to live by the Boy Scout motto where Cruz is concerned: Be prepared. This team has been inconsistent offensively this season and they do not want to be caught flat-footed should they lose their biggest power threat to a 100-game suspension.
With whom should the Rangers replace Cruz? That question is currently the source of much debate among sports fans in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Playing Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry in the same outfield every day would be ill-advised because neither player hits with power. Jeff Baker, who can play the outfield and has home run power, should not be removed from his current utility role to play every day. Why? Because then the Rangers would have to find somebody to replace Baker.
Moving second baseman Ian Kinsler or shortstop Jurickson Profar to the outfield would be a bad idea. Neither of the two has ever played the outfield in the majors or the minors. It does not make sense to experiment in the middle of the season with so much at stake. I'm not saying it won't ever be a good idea for one of them to switch positions--just not at this point (a full spring training at the new position would be extremely helpful).
The Rangers could upgrade their outfield with a trade, and the name Giancarlo Stanton keeps getting tossed around among Ranger fans. This trade will not happen, however. The Miami slugger, who has almost 100 major league home runs at age 23, will not come cheaply. And that's assuming the Marlins even want to trade him. Stanton is the only good thing going for a really bad team right now and he will not be a free agent until at least after 2015. The Rangers should not look for long-term solutions at this point in the season; a stopgap will do just fine. Perhaps the Rangers could acquire a relatively inexpensive proven veteran with power. Some possibilities are Marlon Byrd of the Mets, who was a fan favorite when he played for the Rangers; Scott Hairston of the Cubs; or Will Venable of the Padres.
Bringing in an inexpensive veteran will solve the problem and create the least amount of waves; it makes sense to just keep every player in his current role and bring in a veteran outfielder.
Cruz is about to turn 33 and will likely begin his decline phase soon, though his market value will not take that into consideration--meaning that whatever team signs him will have to overpay to get him. Since he is in the last year of his contract and he doesn't play a premium position, that means the Rangers will probably let him walk at season's end whether he is suspended or not.
If Cruz is suspended for 100 games, however, the Rangers will lose him much sooner than the offseason. The Rangers need to proceed as if it's going to happen and not wait for the suspension to come down to get ready.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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