ARLINGTON, Texas -- Decisions, decisions, decisions.
The Rangers have quite a few to make as they enter their first offseason in four years without a postseason game.
Will Nelson Cruz be back? How about Joe Nathan? Others, such as catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, outfielder David Murphy and pitcher Matt Garza will be discussed ad nauseam before the winter meetings in December in Orlando.
Manager Ron Washington touched on the big ones -- Cruz and Nathan -- during his postmortem press conference Tuesday morning, 12 hours after the Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 in the American League tiebreaker game. He and general manager Jon Daniels and the rest of the brain trust will sit down at some point and go over all the options.
The big one is Cruz. He was suspended for the final 50 games of the regular season for violation of Major League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Cruz has to shoulder a portion of the blame for the Rangers' not making a stronger push for the AL West title, as they gave it up to Oakland in the final month.
The Rangers were disappointed by Cruz's decision-making and suspension, but they also know there's a lack of right-handed power hitters in the major leagues, and the minors too. The Rangers are likely to make Cruz a qualifying offer of about $13.5 million.
Washington, for one, would welcome Cruz back.
“When you think about a Nelson Cruz, who wouldn’t want a Nelson Cruz?" Washington said. "Big heart, great teammate, but there’s a lot of decisions to be made on our part and Nelson’s part. I do believe Jon Daniels will go down that road and see where it works or doesn’t work."
Then there's Nathan. The Rangers have a $9.5 million option on him for 2014, with a $750,000 buyout, a contract that Nathan can void and become a free agent. Nathan, 38, made it clear all season that he expects to pitch for several more years and will seek a multiyear deal.
Nathan blew three saves this season and finished with 43 saves. He may walk the tightrope sometimes, which drives the fan base crazy, but he's reliable and gets the job done.
“I thought Joe Nathan had a tremendous year,” Washington said. “I think at the end of the year, Joe Nathan proved to everyone that doubted him what he was made of, and I certainly would love to continue giving him the ball because he gets outs.”
There will be other decisions. Both Pierzynski and Soto would like to return, but the Rangers may set their sights on free-agent-to-be Brian McCann.
They gave up a lot for Garza, including pitcher C.J. Edwards -- who pitched tremendously for the Cubs in the minors after the trade. Is that reason enough to bring Garza back? Did he show enough despite going through a maddening stretch in August and September?
Whatever happens, this will be a fascinating offseason, one in which Daniels and his staff will have to make their mark.