Who replaces Nelson Cruz if he's suspended?
Increases value at trade deadline
We don't know when MLB will complete its investigation into the allegations in the Miami New Times report of last week, but the Rangers have to be ready for any possible suspension of RF Nelson Cruz.
They've got some options. While the idea of moving Ian Kinsler to right field and making room for Jurickson Profar at second base sounds appealing in the short-term, the better idea in my mind is to hand the right-field spot to Mike Olt.
Kinsler changed his mind earlier this offseason about moving to first base to make room for Profar and the organization agreed with him, leaving things as they are for now. But what's wrong with letting Profar start in Triple-A? He could get some more experience against Triple-A pitching and, if he stays just shy of two months, wouldn't accrue a full year of service time. That means he'd be a free agent a year later, which can certainly matter down the road.
It would give 27-year-old Mitch Moreland a chance to show if he can handle a full-time first base job. If he struggles, the club could force Kinsler's hand and move him to first base to make room for Profar.
Meanwhile, the club could add value to Olt by making him more versatile. Let him spend the spring with outfield coach Gary Pettis, learning the best routes and how to make smart breaks on the ball. He's got the arm to handle it. Olt tried a few games in right field last year and struggled, but that was without the benefit of full focus and practice. If most of his time this spring is spent under the tutelage of Pettis, Olt can do the job.
Olt could add some power to that outfield. He hit 28 homers with 82 RBIs and a .288 batting average in 95 games for Double-A Frisco in 2012. He struggled in limited action in the majors, but he didn't have a defined role and was hurt (plantar fasciitis).
Olt is healthy now. And if he can add right field to his résumé, his value only increases at the trade deadline and beyond if the club chooses to dangle him in the right deal.
Move Olt to right field and see what happens. Let Profar get a little more seasoning in the minors. And when he's ready -- even if that's just a few months after the season starts -- make room in the infield if necessary.
Creates room for Jurickson Profar
For some reason, GM Jon Daniels and the Rangers' front office went soft with Kinsler this offseason. Why the heck do Kinsler and the agent he shares with Mitch Moreland have the right to pencil in the Rangers' lineup card and keep the best prospect in baseball in the minors or on the bench?
Just imagine how much power Kinsler would have if he wasn't coming off a down year.
The solution is simple: Sit down with Kinsler and agent Jay Franklin, tell them that circumstances have changed dramatically since their previous meeting, and give them the right to choose where he moves. Kinsler just can't stay at second base, which should belong to Profar until shortstop becomes open.
If Kinsler chooses first base, that's fine. Moreland becomes the top candidate to fill the void Cruz's suspension would leave. Left field and right field are Kinsler's other options.
If Kinsler doesn't like it, that's too bad. The team's best interests far outweigh his feelings. That approach worked with Michael Young. Why not with Kinsler?
It doesn't matter that Daniels' decision to move Young destroyed the relationship between the GM and the former face of the franchise. Maybe those moves could have been handled with a bit more sensitivity, but it's not Daniels' job to be buddies with players. It's his job to put the Rangers in position to contend for championships, and there's no doubt that moving Young made room for two major upgrades.
The Rangers have baseball's best shortstop-third baseman combination because Daniels was bold enough to bump Young to create a spot for Elvis Andrus and later Adrian Beltre. Profar has been hyped as that caliber of player.
There's no reason for the Rangers to let Kinsler stand in the way of Profar being an every-day player this season. Especially not when there's a huge hole to fill in right field.
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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.