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Nelson Cruz: Rangers Make Brilliant Move Signing Slugger to 2-Year Contract

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27:  Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning during Game Six of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on October 27, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2012

Nelson Cruz was a monster for the Texas Rangers in the postseason last year, and the team is taking the necessary steps to ensure that he stays in Arlington through the end of his peak years. 

According to Andy Slater of 640-AM Sports in Florida, the Rangers avoided arbitration with Cruz on Wednesday. The deal is pending a physical. 

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the deal will be for two years that will take Cruz into free agency after the 2013 season. 

The deal will reportedly pay him $16 million plus performance incentives . Cruz is not the most reliable player in the league, having never played in more than 128 games in a season. But when he is healthy, he is lethal with a bat in his hands. 

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Nelson Cruz #17 and Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers celebrate after Cruz hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning during Game Three of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rangers Ballpark in Arli
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cruz had a breakout season in 2009, when he hit 33 home runs and had a .260/.332/.524 stat line. He has kept up that pace in the two years since, hitting 51 home runs and slugging over .500. 

In addition to his hitting prowess, he has proven to be a solid defensive player in right field. Fans will always remember the play in Game 6 of the World Series last year, when he misplayed a ball hit by David Freese in the bottom of the ninth inning, but overall his performance out there has gone unnoticed. 

Last year was by far his worst year in the outfield. According to Fangraphs, he posted an Ultimate Zone Rating of minus-6.1. While that is not an encouraging sign, it is best to look at three-year trends on defense to get a proper read of what a player is doing. 

In 2009 and 2010, he had UZR's of 8.5 and 10.0. So clearly he is not as bad as the 2011 season made him out to be. 

The Rangers have been making really smart moves this offseason. It started with them not overpaying to keep C.J. Wilson and then landing Yu Darvish, who has all the skills to be a better pitcher than Wilson. Now they have signed Elvis Andrus to a three-year contract and are close to signing Cruz to a two-year deal that will take both players through their arbitration years. 

While the Los Angeles Angels may have grabbed all the headlines for signing Wilson and Albert Pujols, the Rangers are still a force to be reckoned with in the American League West. It is going to be a great race all summer, but don't be surprised if the boys from Texas come out on top. 

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