Aug 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz (17) stands in the dugout before the start of the game against the Oakland Athletics at O.Co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics: Projecting the Lineup with Nelson Cruz

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Sep 30, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz (17) smiles while on the field for batting practice before the American League wild-card tiebreaker game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athetics have emerged as unexpected suitors for Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz. Cruz has been a very consistent batter, hitting no fewer than 20 home runs and 76 runs batted in over the past five seasons. He missed 50 games (because of performance-enhancing drugs) last season but was still able to hit 27 long bombs, making him a top free agent this winter.

Usually, due to money constraints, the Athletics refrain from targeting the biggest names in free agency. However, they are willing to make exceptions to players they really want. In 2010, the A’s tried to sign Adrian Beltre. They came close but ultimately the Rangers shelled out $80 million over five years with a sixth year option of $16 million to sign him.

Nelson Cruz wants a deal worth $75 million over four years, a signing which would not be a realistic possibility for the Athletics. It remains to be seen, however, if there is a team that will pay this much money to sign him.

If they Athletics are able to pull off a deal for Cruz, their lineup would immediately become World Series caliber. There would be no real weakness, especially if John Jaso returns at 100 percent from his concussion suffered last season.

Nelson Cruz would give Bob Melvin even more freedom to move the lineup around. He can play either corner outfield spot or designated hitter.

With Cruz in right field, Coco Crisp in center and Yoenis Cespedes in left, the Athletics would have one of the top hitting outfields in the MLB. They could put either Seth Smith or Josh Reddick at DH, either of which is a good option against lefty pitchers.

The more solid defensive option requires Josh Reddick in right field. In this case, Nelson Cruz would take the DH position, essentially masking his weakness, defense.

Any way you look it, the lineup is strengthened immensly.

POSSIBLE OPENING DAY LINEUPS WITH NELSON CRUZ

CF Coco Crisp, SS Jed Lowrie, DH Nelson Cruz, LF Yoenis Cespedes, 1B Brandon Moss, 3B Josh Donaldson, RF Josh Reddick, C John Jaso, 2B Alberto Callaspo

Any lineup that has an MVP candidate from the year before batting sixth looks very promising. Every player is capable of having a very solid season. Add Seth Smith, Nick Punto, Eric Sogard, and Derek Norris off the bench and you have a team that can hit all season long.

You can see the freedom that Bob Melvin would have to experiment with this lineup. He could substitute people in and out, move people around, and still would have a high-powered lineup.

Nelson Cruz would give this lineup the anchor they need to compete for a World Series.

As usual for the Oakland Athletics, money will be an issue. Cruz would be an expensive investment, quite possibly too expensive for the Athletics’ budget.

Still, it is possible that the Oakland Athletics sign him, and what a signing that would be.

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Tags: MLB Nelson Cruz Oakland Athletics

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