On Saturday, the Baltimore Orioles and free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz agreed to a one-year deal worth $8 million. The deal is still pending the dreaded physical – which free agents have not fared well with when coming to terms with the Orioles (Most notably closer Grant Balfour, who would eventually sign with the Tampa Bay Rays).
Cruz, 33, will fill in nicely in the designated hitter spot and will be able to prove that he can still produce. As well all know, Cruz was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. He should also get some platoon spots in left field during parts of the season.
The Orioles will lose their 55th overall draft pick since Cruz rejected the one-year $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers. However, that appears to not have been a issue while considering Cruz, since Baltimore did just sign Ubaldo Jimenez who also had a draft picked to him.
Cruz will join a stacked lineup highlighted by Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, JJ Hardy, and Manny Machado. The Orioles ranked first in home runs, fourth in runs, and sixth in batting average last season, so Cruz will only make them that much better.
With the recent signings of Cruz, Jimenez, and starter Suk-Min Yoon, the Baltimore Orioles seem committed to winning right now and must believe that the window is open for a possible World Series run. They still might not be done spending money, as talks have circulated that they are also open on the possibility of signing free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana.
It was obvious the Orioles needed starting pitching, and they have filled some of that void this off-season.
What might be even more impressive is that they made their strong suit–offense–even stronger with the signing of Cruz, especially since they got him on a very team-friendly contract.
Nelson Cruz was an impact player and fan favorite during his eight-year tenure with the Texas Rangers. He posted a .268 batting average with 157 home runs, 489 RBI, and a .327 OBP in 796 games for the Rangers. He was also a two-time All Star and 2011 ALCS MVP.
Cruz would get off to a nice start in 2013, batting .266 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI in 109 games, but then came the worst on August 5th. Cruz would receive his 50-game Biogenesis suspension which has surely damaged some of his reputation around the entire league.
New teammate Nick Markakis had this to say about the signing:
“It doesn’t change my opinion toward anything [players that have used PEDs],” Markakis said Saturday. “I got to be a teammate, and no matter if you disagree or agree with your teammates, they are still your teammates. He’s going to be welcome here and we are going to play as one. That’s for sure.”
You can call him a cheater all you want, but Cruz paid his dues and will now attempt to recover his reputation in a new setting. At the end of the day, all that truly matters is winning baseball games, and based on Cruz’s track record, he will be able to help do that for the Orioles.
Ultimately, when we we are all under one roof, we are a team [Markakis said]. So we are going to welcome him just like anyone else.”