ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have avoided two potential arbitration hearings by agreeing to one-year deals with outfielder Nelson Cruz and pitcher C.J. Wilson on Tuesday. They still have work to do, though, to avoid an arbitration hearing with outfielder Josh Hamilton and pitchers Frank Francisco and Darren O'Day, as the Rangers were only able to reach agreements with two of five players before contract figures were exchanged on Tuesday. "That's not quite as many as I was hoping for, but I will take it," assistant general manager Thad Levine said Tuesday.
Cruz is in his first year of arbitration eligibility while Wilson can be a free agent after the upcoming season. Wilson agreed to a $7 million salary while Cruz gets $3.65 million. Both have $150,000 in incentives built into the contracts. Hamilton is seeking $12 million through arbitration while the Rangers are offering $8.7 million. If the Rangers can't reach an agreement, Hamilton's salary will be determined by a three-person arbitration board sometime in February. The same holds true for Francisco and O'Day, who also exchanged arbitration figures with the Rangers on Tuesday. Francisco is seeking $4,875,000 through arbitration while the Rangers are offering $3.5 million. O'Day is seeking $1.4 million while the Rangers are offering $1,050,000. The Rangers haven't had an arbitration hearing with a player since Lee Stevens in 2000, and the goal is to be able to avoid it again this year. "Only time will tell," Levine said. "In advance of exchanging figures, we have had healthy dialogue with the representatives of all three players. That will continue. I can't see why we can't have the same open dialogue. It's part of the process. If a hearing comes to pass, it comes to pass. The goal is still to negotiate an agreement." The Rangers also may explore long-term contracts with some of these players, particularly Wilson and Hamilton. Levine said the goal is to get a one-year deal done with every player and then possibly pick up multiyear discussions in Spring Training. "I would prefer not to get into specific guys, but there are a handful of guys who we would like to sign to multiyear deals," Levine said. "We've had more success doing it in Spring Training when we're around the players." Wilson was huge for the Rangers in 2010, helping them reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. After spending the previous four seasons as a setup reliever and closer, Wilson moved into the rotation and went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 204 innings. He was also 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA in four starts during the playoffs. His ERA ranked him 10th in the American League and he was tied for 10th for the most victories. He was 16th with 170 strikeouts and 18th in innings pitched. Opponents hit .217 off him, the second lowest of any ERA qualifier in the league. Wilson was voted as the Rangers Pitcher of the Year and will be honored at Friday's Mid-Winter Banquet at the Gaylord Texan Resort. He goes into Spring Training as one of the Rangers' top two starters and, along with Colby Lewis, is a candidate to be their Opening Day starter. Cruz, while dealing with hamstring problems, played in 108 games for the Rangers in 2010 and hit .318 with 60 runs scored, 22 home runs and 78 RBIs over 399 at-bats. He had a .374 on-base percentage and a .576 slugging percentage. He was also impressive in the postseason, hitting .317 (19-for-60) in 16 games with six home runs and 11 RBIs. He had a .733 slugging percentage and a .349 on-base percentage. The challenge is keeping him healthy. Cruz missed almost 2 1/2 months of time because of three trips to the disabled list. All three trips were for hamstring problems. When he is healthy, Cruz is highly productive. He has played in 156 games since the 2009 All-Star break and is hitting .300 in 564 at-bats with 86 runs scored, 33 home runs and 101 RBIs. Cruz was selected to the AL All-Star team in 2009. He has a .915 OPS (on-base plus slugging) since the beginning of the 2008 season. That is the 12th highest among 288 Major League players who have played in at least 250 games in that time. Josh Hamilton also has a .915 OPS over the past three years. His slugging percentage over the past three years is .555, the fifth highest among players with at least 250 games played. Hamilton is seventh with a .543 slugging percentage. "Both Nelson Cruz and C.J. Wilson were very important parts of the franchise's first-ever World Series run," Levine said. "We feel very good about being able to recognize their contribution and performance in the contracts that we gave."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.