OF Nelson Cruz.
Of all the players named in the Biogenesis investigation, which took down Ryan Braun last week and is on the brink of making Alex Rodriguez miss a lot of time, possibly the rest of his career, there is perhaps not a more interesting case of alleged offenders than that of Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Cruz is leading the Rangers in several offensive categories this season and has been somewhat consistent, especially by his streaky standards. He's leading the Rangers in home runs (24), which matches his 2012 total and RBIs (71), just 19 shy of his career-high from 2012. He's hitting a respectable .268 with a .329 on-base percentage and is the only Rangers outfielder producing consistently.
Cruz is also a free agent at the end of the season, and the thought has long been that the Rangers would let Cruz walk in free agency following this season and focus their efforts on trading for young superstar Giancarlo Stanton, who also happens to be a right fielder.
That's what makes Cruz's Biogenesis case so interesting. if he is indeed popped with a suspension (presumably 50 games) he could appeal the suspension and most likely play out the rest of the 2013 season with the cloud hanging over his head in free agency, which would surely hurt his market value.
Or, Cruz could take his medicine now, serve out his suspension and be ready to roll in 2014, which would help his value on the free-agent market.
If Cruz exits the Rangers' already suspect lineup this year, their chances of making a run in September and October are dead. He, along with Adrian Beltre, is really the only consistent run-producing force in the Rangers' power-starved lineup.
One solution that could help both parties would be for the Rangers to quietly go to Cruz, express their interest in him for the future and advise him to appeal his suspension, take it next year after the team gets a chance to re-tool its lineup and give the slugger a two-year deal that would protect him for 2014 and 2015 and do so for pennies on the dollar due to the looming suspension.
It's a big decision for both parties to make, but make no mistake, Cruz holds all the cards in the deal.