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Report: Orioles and Nelson Cruz agree to a one-year, $8 million contract

Feb 22, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

Nelson Cruz Getty Getty Images

UPDATE: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the Orioles and Cruz have agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract, pending a physical. The deal includes $750,000 in incentives, but it looks like a potential bargain addition for Baltimore as they attempt to make a run at the postseason.

As for Cruz, settling for a one-year, $8 million guarantee is obviously not what he had in mind at the start of the offseason. However, a number of factors had an impact on his market, including draft pick compensation, questions about how he’ll perform after his PED suspension and away from Texas, as well as his age and poor defense. On the bright side, if he has a nice year in Baltimore, perhaps he’ll get a better payday next offseason.

8:50 a.m. ET: After making a move for a starting pitcher earlier this week by signing right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract, the Orioles are now on the verge of adding a bat. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, Baltimore is closing in on a deal for free agent slugger Nelson Cruz.

No word yet on the terms involved and Heyman writes that a couple of issues still need to be resolved, but a deal is seen as “extremely likely.” The Orioles would surrender their second-round pick (and the corresponding draft pool money) in order to sign Cruz, as they already gave up their first-rounder for Jimenez. It’s unclear whether signing Cruz officially takes the Orioles out of the mix for Ervin Santana, but it’s safe to say that they fully intend to contend this season.

The Orioles are unsettled in the DH spot, so given Cruz’s poor reputation on defense, he should be a good fit there. It could also help keep him healthy, which has been an issue for him in previous since and should be a consideration as he moves toward his mid-30s.

Cruz was limited to 109 games last season due to his 50-game PED suspension, but he still hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. The 33-year-old has 135 home runs over the past five seasons. Only 16 players have more in the same timespan.

  1. rockthered1286 - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    Like the Ubaldo move, I like this. I don’t love it because I feel like we could’ve been more active earlier and trumped this move but still a noticeable improvement from the 2013 team is always a plus.

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      I love this move as a baseball fan and hate it as a Red Sox fan. Getting Cruz for just $8 million is a huge get. Gotta give credit where its due here, well played by O’s front office.

      • mmeyer3387 - Feb 22, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        I agree with your statement, Cruz could end up being a great deal. Still, his suspension is clearly a concern. That being said, the risk is reduced to a short one year contract and if his numbers are close to last year’s they have a true bargain.

      • ltzep75 - Feb 22, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        The Duke strikes again.

      • apkyletexas - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        You never want to be the team who gets the guy after he’s been declining for 4 or 5 years.

        Cruz has been declining for 4 or 5 years.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        Unless you only have to pay him $8 million for just one year. In which case, any team with a DH opening wants to be that team. Playing DH will theoretically help keep him healthy & raking.

      • miketreedy - Feb 22, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        The concern with Cruz is that now he is off the juice how healthy hew will be. He took Juice to help with his weak knees and hamstrings. Not playing OF will help but several of his big injuries have come from just running the bases. At $8mm its worth the risk. He should hit well in that ballpark.

    • jfk69 - Feb 22, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      Cruz.. Lesson learned
      Turned down 14 million. Now takes 8 million
      A bird in the hand is worth two in bush

  2. fomeols - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    If they sign Cruz, they can dump Delmon Young, which would be great, but Morales would be a better choice.
    Either way, despite his negatives, Cruz would make the Orioles a stronger team.

  3. proudlycanadian - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    They still have time to also sign, Morales, Drew and Santana. The draft pick penalty if they go all in is minimal.

  4. buffalo65 - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    A good buy low.

  5. slaugin - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Why sign Drew if they have Hardy?

  6. themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Ah. Pending a physical, is it? Lets just wait and seeā€¦.

  7. jbeagles23 - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    As a jays fan I watched this happen to our team last year. Maybe you’ll have better luck by signing big names doesn’t seen to work in the MLB anymore. Maybe the players have the idea that if they fail the guy behind them will step up and that train continues daily through the lineup

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      This is different than signing all that talent at once, though. The blue jays team had almost no time to gel, expectations were high, their elite SS was injured early, and who could have predicted a tumor in the back of the best FA OPS guy on the market? There were injuries to several key players, the IF defence was awful, the rotation could not stay healthy, and their catchers were woeful either with the bat or with the glove or both. Lucky for jays fans, all of those things seem to have been addressed or have healed this off season. It only requires now some solid pitching to see them contending. They don’t have to have a great ERA, merely league average (please note that this could be a tough ask in their park – their ERA+ was not far off league average). But its that IF defence that could turn the tide for them. It doesn’t need to be elite. Just middle of the pack. Their prolific homerun hitting in the tiny AL east parks should do the rest. If those HRs translate to multiple RBI’s per HR, then they’ll out slug everyone. all they need to then do is limit the other team’s hitting with a combination of decent pitching and defence. not unreasonable

      But the Orioles. A much different bird. They had almost the same in terms of pitching as the blue jays. They gave up a lot of homeruns. Oy, did they give up homers! Oy vey. But man could they get on base, defend and hit. Lead the league in fewest errors, they did. Lead the league in HRs hit, too. The signing of Jiminez and now Cruz* are just two components to an already potent team. The O’s played well together already. All their hitting is young and prolific. Cruz* just adds another big bat in a small park. Jiminez has the most potential to affect things. if he can bring the clubs ERA down to near league average (right around 3.99) he will be the key piece to this. But The O’s suffer from their tiny park more than the blue jays (by ERA+ they were league average, so Camden Inches truly hurt them), so a guy like Jiminez really makes a difference.

      He could be great. For about half a season last year he was a strikeout machine who induced lots of weak contact with a lousy defence behind him. He rocked the joint, pretty much on his own. The trouble is, which Jiminez are they getting? If they get the erratic one -the slightly crazy one- well they will get lit up. Even Cruz* can’t compensate for that

      *pending physical

      • mmeyer3387 - Feb 22, 2014 at 1:46 PM

        I agree and think that you are right in pointing out that the Orioles FA signing is different than that of Jays. They already have a good defensive core along a strong power offense. However, their pitching is average at best. Accordingly, Jimiez could a boom or bust player for the team. But if his season is anything like last years he could be difference maker. Of course injuries can hurt any team, b the Orioles have better reserves than those of the Jays and they are a younger team. Additionally. The FA’s do not have the history of health issues that the Jays FA’s had. Still,Don’t know how the season will play out.

  8. mikes112291 - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Nice. O’s finally make some good moves. Now that Johnson isn’t going to blow so many saves should b a good year

  9. dondada10 - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Jeez the Mets gave Chris Young 7.5 mil.

    Cruz > Young, PEDs and all.

    • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Young didn’t cost a draft pick and is a far better defender and base runner. Each is just a 1 year rental, considering the non-competitive nature of the 2014 Mets, I’d rather have Young and the pick.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        Did you just call Michael Young a “better defender”? Oy vey. if that isn’t a yard stick for how bad Cruz’s defence is then I don’t know what is

      • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        Chris Young, you know, the guy the Mets signed for $7.5M that was referred to.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        I see the name “Young” and “defence” and my knee just jerks (I wince, too)

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        Oh wait. Chris Young. Please ignore me.

      • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Well, with the HBT history of long involved discussion’s of Michael Young, it probably would be best if I had used Chris Young’s full name.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        I appreciate your comment, but I should have read the original comment before sticking my nose in your conversation. But you did prompt me to go look up Chris Young. And above average defender. I agree with your assessment but would like to add that its hard for a fielder to defend a homerun (with a nod to Mike Trout and Rajai Davis from last season). Orioles pitchers gave up a prolific number of them last season. with a league average ERA+, this means that park does not help a fielder at all.

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      Cruz is a hundred times better than Young. Even if he’s only healthy for 2/3 of the season he could provide more value in that time than Young provides over the rest of his career.

      Cruz signing is a homerun for the O’s. The Young signing for the Mets – a head scratcher. He can’t hit RHP’s and he’s only o.k. against LHP’s. Having speed and a decent arm is only worth so much.

      • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Not really. Cruz is a DH at this point, no defensive value, no base running value.

        Cruz has had the huge benefit of hitting in Arlington. For his career, he’s been a below average hitter on the road (wRC+ 95). Yes, Camden is a hitters park, but it doesn’t compare to Arlington. Cruz is probably a slightly above average this year that is a net negative in other aspects of the game.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        $8 million in today’s contract environment? Great one year deal. He’s priced as a complimentary piece & has the potential to be much more than that.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 22, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        Also Paper, they’re signing him to be a DH so his defensive value is a non-factor in the equation. I’m not arguing that he’s an all-star at this stage of his career, but at this price for just one year he’s a valuable acquisition.

        You can bet this contract made Kendrys Morales’ heart drop into his stomach.

      • shawnuel - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:45 PM

        Agree with paperlions. Young is better all around. Cruz has more power but it is not a sure thing he will hit like he did in Arlington and without The Juice. Young is a sound defender. Cruz shouldn’t be allowed to touch a glove any longer.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:53 PM

        Good thing he’s going to DH

  10. deep64blue - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Don’t understand why they would give up a draft pick (even a 2nd rounder) for a one year rental, very strange.

    Guess Cruz should have taken the $14m Texas offered him, wow what a bad decision that was!

    • bendover09 - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      This just shows what kind of example Cruz is ..

      Yes he took PEDs but before he ever did he could not keep his legs healthy. Ever since the PEDs he is almost completing a full season. The dude just wants to play ball. This is the better example of it .. takes a 6 million paycut from the Rangers to sign with Baltimore more than likely bc of playing time. Baltimore, don’t worry about his fielding, he’ll make up for it with his arm strength as he gunning out the runner going to third. The people criticizing over that one missed catch , they couldnt catch a fly if its hit right in their mit,

  11. phillysports1 - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    SEATTLE needed him more , I think.

    • shawnuel - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:47 PM

      If his numbers decrease because of the less favorable environment of Camden Yards, to Arlington, imagine how much they would have suffered in Seattle. His Lifetime BA in Safeco field is below .200. Small Sample Size caveats do apply.

      • thebirdsareback - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:34 AM

        less favorable environment? Baltimore and Camden Yards is like a million times an upgrade over texas. Stadium, City, Fans…what are you talking about?

  12. pastabelly - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    In a most complimentary way, I like the bottom feeding that Dan Duquette is doing in free agency. At this point, I agree that he should sign both Santana and Morales.

  13. swu32733 - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Another missed opportunity by the hapless management in Seattle. Wake up you bozos!

    • deep64blue - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      Seattle would have been crazy to sign him and lose the draft pick especially when Morales is still out there!

    • churdus - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      You’re a bozo if you think this would have significantly improved the M’s. I’d be much happier resigning Morales and a pitcher.

    • shawnuel - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:53 PM

      I am proud of Jack Z for resisting the temptation to sign Cruz. I have a feeling (supported by his clear decline, his numbers in Safeco, lack of PED’s and his bad wheels) that Cruz would be a disaster in Seattle. Morales will create a glut of 1B/DH types but Cruz would have done the same or KILLED the OF defense. Morales has proved he can hit in Safeco. If Seattle signs him, I would expect Smoak to be traded. I can see Ike David getting traded to Pittsburgh. I’d be interested to see Franklin and Smoak go to NYM for a package based around Juan Lagares.

      • shawnuel - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:54 PM

        Or, Ike DaviS

  14. uyf1950 - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Really surprised that Cruz went for a 1 year deal even more so that it was just for $8MM. The O’s got a good deal here. I’d guess that Cruz and the O’s have a handshake agreement that the O’s will NOT make Cruz a QO at the end of the 2014 season.

    I also have to admit that I’m more surprised that the Mariners didn’t jump on Cruz if he was willing to settle for the type of deal he got from the O’s. Some Seattle fans might take issue with the following but it appears to me that the Mariners seem content at this point to make Cano there really only significant FA signing this winter.

    • Reflex - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:53 AM

      Sigh of relief is more like it. Cruz was not a good fit for the M’s or Safeco. The team is loaded with DH/CO/1B types. Where were they supposed to play him? Hart is most likely more productive, and Morales is still out there if they MUST sign another DH.

      The M’s best bet at this point is via trade. They have the minor league talent to get a hitter, I’d like to see them do it.

  15. watermelon1 - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    One reason you MIGHT give up draft picks for rentals is this…

    The orioles “core” that they have had for years while promising the future is bright is now getting older.

    Adam jones… Markakis… Wieters…

    If they don’t compete soon, those guys will be gone looking to play for a contender and they still haven’t found their next stars.

    Being good this year, even with rentals… Makes coming to Baltimore much more appealing to potential future free agents.

    And as we’ve seen with all the failed draft picks from the orioles… They are no sure thing. At least you KNOW Cruz will get you 25+ homers this year. So if people can get on base, awesome!

    This will still come down to orioles lack of proven pitching. Gotta start the season got to gain everyone that needed confidence.

  16. rockthered1286 - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    And now they are reporting the O’s are close to signing Ervin Santana now too?!

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 22, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      Might as well go all in, if the players are upgrades. It makes Seattle’s offseason plan look all the more confusing.

  17. yordo - Feb 22, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Another player overrates himself and gets burned. The qualifying offer is your friend. When will they learn?

  18. jrob23 - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    wasn’t there a rumor that he turned down 5 years $75 million from the Mariners? And also the qualifying offer from Texas for $14 million?

    Dude needs to fire his agent Adam Katz yesterday. I’d be surprised if that guy gets any more clients. That has to be the worst job of protecting a player’s interests as I have seen in my life.

    • billybawl - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Scott Boras is giggling and ordering a gift basket to send to Katz. Demand for Morales just went up, along with his price.

      • shawnuel - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:56 PM

        I would argue that his price just went down. He won’t get much more than Cruz. That deal set the range for a deal with Morales.

  19. siggtacular - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Orioles World Series 2014

    • sophiethegreatdane - Feb 22, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      Stop. Just stop.

  20. stagedoorjohnny - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    Seattle took one long and hard look at this guy and said no thanks. He’s been declining the last few years even with PEDs, has no defense and wasn’t worth the price of $8 million as a DH.
    Baltimore should have took Morales which would have a been a better acquisition.

  21. xjokerz - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    good deal.

    i was expecting cruz to make A LOT more.

  22. jpalughi823 - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    this past week has thrown me on my ear. i have no idea who my owner is. it makes me smile a bit….even if it doesn’t work out, atleast i can say “hey, you tried”

  23. byjiminy - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:30 AM

    Bargain. And now Santana would only cost them a third round pick (and a LOT of money, of course).

  24. swu32733 - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:09 AM

    Ghurdus. F;/&@ Y$&

  25. thebirdsareback - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    Just seeing the likely top 7 of the orioles starting 9 as Markakis, Machado, Jones, Davis, Cruz, Hardy and Wieters (in no particular order) gives me goosebumps. I have a feeling the Orioles are going to win a lot of Home series this year. I also think they will have their way with boston and new york. Tampa and Toronto always seem to give us fits as of late. This division is stacked 5 high with competitive clubs. I cannot wait for this season to start!!! March 31st, BRING ON THE CHAMPS!!! You know the Ravens were supposed to host the first game as champs in Baltimore last year but screwed, Glad we get the red sox at home

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