They’d both come off their first full big league seasons, in which they each did big enough things that they were picked to co-star in this TV commercial.

Just four years later, and on the same late-February afternoon, with camps in full session all around the league, Andrew Bailey signed a minor league contract, and Nelson Cruz took a one-year deal from Baltimore for about what the Mets paid Chris Young and the Red Sox paid A.J. Pierzynski, a one-year guarantee of $8 million with only an added $750,000 available in incentives, in a winter when Scott Feldman got three years and $30 million from a low-payroll club; Marlon Byrd, with his own PED history and three years of extra age, got two years and $16 million, with a vesting option for a third year that could push his deal to $24 million; and Jhonny Peralta, whose suspension mirrored Cruz’s own, landed $53 million over four years from a contending club.

Maybe Texas, arguably in need of another right-handed bat to keep Mitch Moreland from having to face the best lefthanders in the league, was in it with Cruz until the end.

Maybe Cruz was insistent on finding a club that would let him play a meaningful amount in the outfield, thinking maybe he’d be able to reestablish (establish?) the value that he thought he had four months ago, when he declined the Rangers’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million in early November.

Maybe Texas simply didn’t want to give up what would be that supplemental first-round draft pick in June (somewhere in the low 30s overall) by signing Cruz now.

Maybe Cruz feared, even if he were to accept a DH-heavy role, that he’d get only part-time at-bats since Moreland is in place and no team is ever going to assure a free agent that it’s going to trade another player on its roster to ensure there’s no logjam.

Maybe the Rangers made Cruz a second offer (later in the off-season than the November qualifying offer), one that was larger than the one he ultimately took from the Orioles, but Cruz turned that one down, too, all of which Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) reports.  Whether or not that crazy story about Seattle offering five years and $75 million in December was true, Jerry Crasnick (ESPN) reported yesterday that “[e]xecs from rival clubs say [Cruz] turned down multiple two- and three-year offers” before settling for Baltimore’s one-year deal.

Maybe Cruz got very bad advice from his agent.

They both have to feel sick about this.

I’m sure at least one of them does.  The other one should.

And as much as I would have liked to see Cruz back here for one more year, especially at the dollar level his market turned out to be, maybe that’s a bullet dodged, if you believe analysis like this.  He’s a 33-year-old player with skills likely entering their decline.

Still, he’s not only been a huge part of two World Series teams for a franchise that’s made just two World Series appearances — he’s also provided a huge amount of massive moments for this organization, many in the post-season, all since that MLB2K10 ad ran four years ago.

Nelson Cruz represents one of the great trades early on in the Jon Daniels era, and one of the great player development successes this franchise has had.

All I know is this:

Cruz had a chance to take a $14.1 million deal that was on the table.  But didn’t.

The Rangers theoretically had a chance later in the winter to bring Cruz back for something in a range slightly above $8 million.  But didn’t.

And that says a whole lot about how differently the two sides viewed his value — going forward.

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