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ARLINGTON -- The Rangers picked up not one, but two right-handed power hitters from the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, one to prove an immediate impact and the other to be a big part of their long-range plans.
The Rangers expect Carlos Lee to have the immediate impact as the big bat they have been looking for in the middle of their lineup. But the Rangers also like what they picked up in rookie outfielder Nelson Cruz, 26, who also joined the team on Friday.
Cruz, who was 1-for-5 in eight games for the Brewers at the end of last year, will be in the lineup on Saturday and the Rangers are ready to take a hard look at him as their right fielder of the future.
"We wouldn't have made this trade if he wasn't a part of it," general manager Jon Daniels said after acquiring Lee and Cruz from the Brewers for pitcher Francisco Cordero, outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix, and Minor League pitcher Julian Cordero.
Cruz is considered a five-tool player with significant power potential and a well-above average arm in right field. Scouts compare him to Juan Encarnacion and Jose Guillen, and his biggest challenge is to show he can either hit or lay off the breaking ball.
"We really like him," Daniels said. "He's an athletic outfielder who is starting to put it together and perform, a five-tool guy who could be our right fielder for some time."
Cruz was batting .302 with 22 doubles, 20 home runs, 73 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 104 games at Triple-A Nashville and will immediately assume at least a part-time role for the Rangers.
"Right now we're going to play him in right field," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "We're going to play him against left-handers, initially. That's where we'll start and see what happens. We have hopes he will blossom into an everyday player. We didn't bring him in here strictly to play against left-handers."
The immediate focus will obviously be on Lee, a two-time All-Star who hit .286 with 28 home runs and 81 RBIs for the Brewers. The Rangers entered Friday's game eighth in the American League in runs scored and were looking for a power hitter who could fit into the cleanup spot between Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock.
"Carlos was at the top of our list of impact players we could add at this time," Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. "He gives us that big bat in the middle of the lineup we needed, a different presence, a different dimension that we were missing. He's a strong makeup guy from everything we've heard and he'll add a different presence to our clubhouse as well.
"We feel pretty strongly he can be a big piece right now."
Lee can also be a free agent after the season and is reportedly looking for a five-year deal at around $10-12 million annually. One benchmark could be the five-year, $60 million contract that first baseman Paul Konerko signed with the Chicago White Sox last offseason.
But Mench and Cordero combined would likely have made around $9-10 million next season and moving that money could give the Rangers the financial flexibility to get something done with Lee.
"Obviously, we knew going in that he can be a free agent," Daniels said. "He wouldn't be available otherwise. At the appropriate time, we'll talk to Carlos and his agent [Adam Katz] about a deal that would make sense to keep him here. We made it clear to Adam that we made this deal to sign him and keep him. It's a risk, but we knew that going in. We made this deal with our eyes wide open."
The Rangers may not be done as Monday's non-waiver deadline approaches. Daniels' No. 1 priority is still to acquire starting pitching.
Other pitchers that the Rangers have talked about include Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber with the Phillies, Livan Hernandez and Tony Armas Jr. with the Nationals, Arizona's Miguel Batista and Baltimore's Rodrigo Lopez.
"Our priority is to get better," Daniels said. "We've talked about a lot of different players and a lot of different scenarios. Starting pitching is an area we would like to upgrade if possible. But the market will dictate that and it hasn't been a strong market."
The Rangers are also interested in adding a veteran right-handed reliever after including Cordero in the deal with the Brewers.
Cordero was an All-Star for the Rangers as their closer in 2004, but lost his job this season when he was replaced by Akinori Otsuka at the end of April. He was more effective as a setup reliever, going 4-2 with a 2.87 ERA since May 1.
The Rangers are calling up right-hander Josh Rupe to replace Cordero, although not necessarily in the eighth-inning role. Rick Bauer is expected to assume that role, but the Rangers are looking at the trade market for possible help. Pittsburgh's Roberto Hernandez is a name that has been brought up in the past and the Orioles are interested in dealing LaTroy Hawkins.
"We're going to continue to look to improve the club any way we can," Daniels said. "The bullpen has been a strength for us all year and taking Cordero out of it is something we'll have to address. We do feel we have some quality internal candidates to fill the void."
Mench is hitting .284 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs, but the Rangers like the idea of adding Lee right now and having Cruz as their right fielder next year.
Nix was hitting .269 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 77 games for Triple-A Oklahoma after starting the season with the Rangers. Cordero, 21, was 2-5 with a 2.77 ERA at Class A Clinton.
"I was a little shocked at first," shortstop Michael Young said. "This is the first time since I've been here that we've made a blockbuster deal during the season that really opens your eyes. Obviously, we have a great deal of faith in the guys we have here, but when you acquire a guy like Carlos, you know he's only going to help this team."