ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers watches the ball 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Nelson Cruz is the biggest name left on the free agent market, and it's not even really close.
He has his fair share of red flags — an injury history, a PED suspension last season and perhaps, biggest of all, the draft pick that must be forfeited to the Texas Rangers by the club that signs him. He also has a lot of assets, most notably his light-tower power and his ability to perform in big situations, as evidenced by his postseason track record, including a 2011 ALCS MVP trophy.
When Cruz declined the Rangers' $14.1 million qualifying offer in November, it was assumed he'd be playing elsewhere. And while that's still the most likely outcome, his market has dwindled significantly, basically to nothing but a one-year deal somewhere.
The Rangers have said they're interested in bringing Cruz back "at the right price" but just never really expected the opportunity to arise to where that could be done. Now, it seems that might possible.
"We've touched base every week or so," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with [Cruz's agent Adam Katz]. We made our moves [for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo] and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent.
"When we made our decision to sign Choo [seven years, $130 million], it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
The Orioles and Mariners have reportedly shown interest in Cruz, but the draft pick tie is a big deterrent, especially when a player's market falls to one-year territory, which has seemingly happened with Cruz.
Cruz would undoubtedly be a boost to an already improved lineup, and would provide another power bat to put in the heart of the Rangers' order, most likely as a No. 5 hitter behind Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre.
"Everybody's hoping he comes back," Elvis Andrus told MLB.com. "We know how different he makes the lineup look. He would be a great addition. He knows everybody here and is one of the best power hitters in the game. I know he's kind of worried back home [in the Dominican Republic]. Being his teammate, he's like a brother."