Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 2/9/12
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With how good Nelson Cruz has been for the Rangers over the last few seasons, it can be easy to forget just how tumultuous his road to the majors was. It wasn’t too long ago, however, that Cruz was the definition of the “Quad-A” player, crushing Triple-A pitching but stymied against pitching in the major leagues. That’s why, despite turning 32 in July, Cruz is entering just his second year of arbitration.

That also may be why the Rangers weren’t willing to buy out any of Cruz’s free agent seasons, going beyond his age 34 season. The Rangers did sign Cruz to an extension Thursday, buying out his final two seasons of arbitration for $16 million, Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal reports.

The Rangers’ trepidation at undertaking an extension beyond Cruz’s arbitration years were summed up quite succinctly by the joke Twitter account MLB Fake Rumors:

#Rangers OF Cruz pulls hamstring while taking physical.

— MLB Fake Rumors (@MLBFakeRumors) February 9, 2012

As excellent as Cruz has been for the Rangers, putting up 10 WAR over the past three seasons, his injury history is far to extensive to ignore. Observe, from his SB Nation player page:

Date Injury Type 13-Sep-11 Missed 12 games (left hamstring injury). 30-Aug-11 Left hamstring injury, 15-day DL. 2-Aug-11 Missed 2 games (right quadricep). 30-Jul-11 Left quadricep, day-to-day. 23-May-11 Missed 17 games (right quadricep). 7-May-11 Right quadricep, 15-day DL (retroactive to May 4). 4-May-11 Right quadricep, day-to-day. 30-Aug-10 Missed 15 games (hamstring). 16-Aug-10 Hamstring, early September. 15-Aug-10 Hamstring, day-to-day. 22-Jun-10 Missed 21 games (hamstring). 30-May-10 Hamstring, 15-day DL (retroactive to May 29). 29-May-10 Hamstring, day-to-day. 27-Apr-10 Right hamstring injury, early September. 4-Oct-09 Missed the last game of the regular season (sprained left ankle). 3-Oct-09 Sprained left ankle, day-to-day. 20-Aug-09 Missed 15 games (sprained left ankle). 14-Aug-09 Left ankle injury, early September. 4-Aug-09 Sprained left ankle, day-to-day. 22-Jul-09 Missed 3 games (finger injury). 19-Jul-09 Finger injury, day-to-day.

The Rangers clearly recognize Cruz as a good player and one who can be a cornerstone for their team in the short term. Even at 32, he’s primed to continue his solid play: ZiPS projects him for a .269/.327/.511 line. Justifiably, though, the Rangers are balking at any longer commitment. Cruz has simply been too brittle to commit to the player as a 34-year-old or beyond.

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