How Replacing Nelson Cruz with Michael Bourn Would Impact the Rangers

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How Replacing Nelson Cruz with Michael Bourn Would Impact the Rangers
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A recent report from Tim Elfrink of the Miami News Times has dominated the MLB headlines of late, as a number of MLB stars including Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz have been tied to a clinic that supplied PEDs.

While this certainly does not qualify as a positive test for the aforementioned players, they could still face suspension on what is known as a non-analytic positive, wherein a player does not physically test positive but there is strong enough secondary evidence to warrant a suspension.

Rick Ankiel and Jordan Schafer are two examples of players who have been suspended without a positive test in the past.

This would be a major blow for all the teams involved, but losing Cruz would especially be difficult for the Rangers as their offense has already been hit hard by free agency.

Here is the excerpt from the article regarding Cruz, who had never before been linked to PEDs in any way until this report came out:

But there are also several prominent professionals in Bosch's records who have never before been linked to steroid use. According to his July 2012 client sheet, Bosch sold $4,000 of product to Nelson Cruz, whom he nicknames "Mohamad." Cruz, the power-hitting Dominican outfielder for the Texas Rangers, has whacked 130 bombs in his eight-year career without any links to performance-enhancing drugs. Until now. Bosch writes in his 2012 book: "Need to call him, go Thur to Texas, take meds from April 5-May 5, will owe him troches and... and will infuse them in May."

After losing Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli this offseason, and failing to sign any major free agents, the Rangers' lineup appears to be a shell of what it once was. Roster website MLBDepthCharts projects their Opening Day lineup to be as follows:

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
DH Lance Berkman
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Nelson Cruz
LF David Murphy
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Mitch Moreland
CF Leonys Martin

Last season, the Rangers led the American League with 808 runs scored and finished second with a .273 average as a team. However, replacing the aforementioned trio with Lance Berkman, A.J. Pierzynski and Leonys Martin is certainly a downgrade.

They made a run at re-signing Hamilton and pursued a trade for Diamondbacks slugger Justin Upton, but in the end nothing came to pass and they are without the fearsome middle of the order they have had in years past.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As result, Cruz was expected to be leaned on even more heavily this coming season, as he has been a consistent power source since becoming an everyday player.

Cruz was not a regular until the age of 28 back in 2009, but he burst onto the scene that year with 33 home runs, 20 steals and a trip to the All-Star Game.

In total, he has averaged 27 home runs and 83 RBI in his four seasons as a starter, and a big season in 2013 would likely set him up for a big payday as he will be a free agent at season's end. That could be in question now though, as a 50-game suspension would certainly cut into his production and subsequent market value.

The way I see it, should he be suspended, the Rangers would have three viable approaches to replacing him:

 

1. They move Mitch Moreland to right field and give slugging prospect Mike Olt everyday at-bats at first base to kick off the season. Resulting projected lineup:

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
DH Lance Berkman
3B Adrian Beltre
LF David Murphy
1B Mike Olt
C A.J. Pierzynski
RF Mitch Moreland
CF Leonys Martin

As far as replacing his production as a power hitter, Olt would make the most sense as a replacement for Cruz. He hit 28 home runs in 354 Double-A at-bats last season before earning a big league call-up.

 

2. They revisit moving Ian Kinsler to the outfield, and give top prospect Jurickson Profar everyday at-bats at second base. Resulting projected lineup:

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

RF Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
DH Lance Berkman
3B Adrian Beltre
LF David Murphy
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Mitch Moreland
CF Leonys Martin
2B Jurickson Profar

Profar is the consensus choice for top prospect in baseball entering the season, as the 19-year-old hit .281/.368/.452 with 14 home runs and 16 steals at Double-A last year before getting a September call-up. He went on to homer in his first big league at-bat and earned a spot on the postseason roster.


3. They sign free-agent Michael Bourn. Resulting projected lineup:

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

CF Michael Bourn
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Lance Berkman
LF David Murphy
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Mitch Moreland
RF Leonys Martin 

Signing Bourn certainly ranks as the most drastic move since he comes tied to draft pick compensation after turning down a qualifying offer from the Braves at the start of the offseason and won't be cheap to add.

The latest reports have Bourn and agent Scott Boras seeking a five-year, $75 million deal (h/t CSNPhilly), which would be in line with what the Braves paid B.J. Upton to replace him.

He would certainly bring a different dynamic to the Rangers lineup than Cruz does, as his speed is without a doubt his biggest asset.

Bourn would undoubtedly be slotted in the leadoff spot if he were signed, and that would mean the onus would likely fall on Ian Kinsler to move to the middle of the order and replace Cruz's run production numbers.

With a pair of 30-HR seasons under his belt and an average of 20 home runs per season during his seven-year big league career, he is more than capable of stepping up as a power source.

For a Rangers team that has failed to make a splash signing this offseason to offset their losses, this could be the best move.

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