Bad news coming from the Texas Rangers' camp—this is beginning to sound like a broken record.
By now, Nelson Cruz’s reported connection (via the Miami New Times) to a PED clinic in Miami is old news. Although he hasn’t discussed the report publicly, Nelson’s attorneys at Farrell & Reisinger have officially denied the allegations in a statement released to the Associated Press:
We are aware of certain allegations and inferences. To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied.
In the chance that he is found guilty, the penalty for a first-time offender in the MLB is a 50-game suspension.
It never hurts to plan ahead, so what is the Rangers' best option if the league reprimands the 32-year-old slugger?
Free agency is normally a good place to look for a quick fix, and speedster Michael Bourn remains unsigned.
The problem with going after Bourn is threefold: The Rangers already have two outfielders (Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin) with a similar skill set, he is represented by Scott Boras—which means he won’t come cheap—and signing him would cost the Rangers a draft pick. It’s difficult to see Bourn making such an impact that it would warrant disregarding these three factors.
A solution via the trade market is also unlikely, especially now the Justin Upton saga has ended.
Instead, there are two very interesting solutions that the Rangers can explore internally. One involves moving Ian Kinsler to right field and Jurickson Profar to second base.
What makes this scenario so intriguing is that it solves one of the organization’s most vexing problems: where to play Profar. Kinsler is an excellent athlete and projects as a solid outfielder defensively, along with his power at the plate. Additionally, Profar finally gets his opportunity to play every day.
Depending on how both players perform, this move’s success could easily make Cruz expendable. His contract expires after 2013, and the Rangers could possibly trade him at some point to help fulfill the team’s needs. His age, declining numbers and potential suspension will all play major roles in that decision.
A more short-term solution is plugging Mike Olt in at right field until Cruz returns.
Olt doesn’t have much experience in the outfield, but he'd have all of spring training to acclimate to that position. He would also provide a powerful right-handed bat in the lineup to help supplement Cruz’s absence. Plus, like Profar, the Rangers need to see how he performs every day on the big league level.
Granted, the Rangers could just as easily stick Mitch Moreland in right field and Olt at first, but he may have an easier time staying healthy at first base.
Obviously, Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels prefer not dealing with any more problems before spring training begins. They have enough on their plate. It's just been one of those off seasons.
Professional athletes haven’t exactly been pillars of honesty when it comes to PED usage. Despite this, Cruz still deserves the benefit of the doubt. His name has never surfaced alongside steroids before, and, as always, it's innocent until proven guilty.
But again, it never hurts to plan ahead.