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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
What could Nelson Cruz ripple effects be?

By Richard Durrett

OK. I’ve been bombarded by emails and tweets about what this could mean for right field for the Texas Rangers this season.

Former MLB general manager and ESPN Insider Jim Bowden offers insight into the Nelson Cruz PED allegations and discusses possible Rangers moves with Ben and Skin.

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First, let’s make something clear: MLB is investigating the New Times report. We don’t know yet whether Nelson Cruz will be suspended. And we don’t know how long it might take to find out. Please keep that in mind.

But the Rangers have to be prepared for anything. So what if Cruz isn’t in right field and serving a first-time offender 50-game suspension? A few thoughts (and maybe some answers to some of your questions):

• Let’s not forget that Cruz’s contract expires after the 2013 season. So no matter what happens, the club has to be prepared for another alternative out there for 2014 if Cruz isn’t re-signed. He never really found his rhythm and hot streak at the plate in 2012 despite staying healthy for the entire season. He hit .260 with 24 homers and 90 RBIs in 159 games.

• Does this again make Michael Bourn an option? I’m not so sure. He’s not really a replacement for Cruz in that he doesn’t have power and relies more on speed. If Bourn wants a four- or five-year deal, I don’t think the Rangers all of a sudden are interested in doing that, even with a possible Cruz suspension on the table. If it isn’t that long a deal, maybe they engage in talks.

• As for internal options, Mike Olt actually played two big league games in the outfield –- both in right field –- during the 2012 season. He worked some with Gary Pettis in the outfield in 2012 and could do so again this spring. Olt is athletic enough and has a good arm to play the position. It would also allow the team to get his bat in the lineup rather than send him to Triple-A.

• The Rangers initially approached Ian Kinsler about moving to first base to make room for Jurickson Profar, and he wasn’t interested in doing that at the time. But what about Kinsler going to the outfield? Might sound a bit ridiculous, but I think he could handle it if given part of the spring to work on it. It would also free up that second-base spot for Profar. Just a thought.

• Patience could still be the key here. What if Giancarlo Stanton is available at the trade deadline, for instance? If the club has its current assets, they could use those for that type of deal if it’s out there. I don’t think you’ll see the Rangers jump and make a major move to react to something that hasn’t happened yet.

David Murphy is capable of playing either corner, so you don’t have to simply think of this as finding a right fielder. And the club could rotate folks in. What about Leonys Martin? Could he play some left or right field with Craig Gentry in center? That would also eliminate the plan to platoon the two center fielders.

Mitch Moreland has played 44 career games in right field. It wasn’t his natural position and it’s not a position he could play every day, but he could rotate in at points if needed. If he does, Lance Berkman’s knee would need to be good enough to play first.

To me, Olt makes the most sense despite his limited time in the outfield. You’d have to live with some mistakes as he learned the position, but the club believes in his bat and he’s shown power in the minors (and the team would lose some power if Cruz wasn’t in the lineup). But I’m also intrigued with the notion of Kinsler in the outfield (and that could be left or right field, because Murphy can play either) to get Profar in the lineup, though I don’t know how feasible that would be.

Again, this is all speculation. At this point, Cruz is in right field and we must wait to see what, if any, penalties are assessed based on MLB’s investigation into the clinic that is talked about the New Times report.

What do you think the Rangers should do about right field if Cruz isn’t in the lineup?