ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 31: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers hits a solo homerun against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 31, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Nelson Cruz unsurprisingly declined the Texas Rangers qualifying offer for $14.1 million for the 2014 season on Monday, meaning he is now a full-fledged free agent and has decided to test the market in free agency.
That doesn't mean the Rangers are out of the running for their slugger, who missed the final 50 games of the 2013 season after being suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal. But it does mean he's less likely to return, as he'll likely command a pretty good chunk of change as one of the few free agent power bats out there — more than the Rangers will want to spend.
Cruz hit 27 home runs despite missing the final 50 games of the regular season and finished second on the Rangers in long balls, just behind Adrian Beltre.
There are a few likely suitors for Cruz this winter, and we'll take a look at some here, in order from most likely to least likely:
1. Seattle Mariners — Possibly the favorite to land Cruz, the Mariners are always on the lookout to add offense to their stellar pitching staff that's fronted by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. They'll most likely lose Kendrys Morales after he declined their qualifying offer, so they need power. They did move in the fences to the traditional pitcher-friendly park before last season and their offense saw the benefits.
2. New York Mets — Known for being a bit cheap in the free agent market recently, the Mets would be a logical fit for Cruz, but like the Rangers, you have to wonder if they're going to want fork out the cash for Cruz after an inferior Marlon Byrd got a $16 million deal from the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this week.
3. Oakland A's — This would be a bit of a homecoming for Cruz, who began his career as an outfielder in the A's system before being dealt to Milwaukee and later to Texas. It would also be a nice steal for the A's to go get the Rangers' best power hitter and use him against their AL West rivals. But, the money-conscious Billy Beane would have to stretch his budget — something he's known to do from time to time — to sign Cruz, and he just might do it to add to the outfield power they already have in Yoenis Cespedes.