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Nelson Cruz, baseball’s $8 million man, ends May at 20 HR, 52 RBI

May 31, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Getty Images

Nelson Cruz was jobless into the month of February, after spring training had already begun. Cruz had rejected the Rangers’ $14.1 million qualifying offer back in November, and remained unsigned through the winter because of the draft pick compensation to which he was attached. Finally, the Orioles relented, signing him to a one-year, $8 million deal on February 22.

Just over three months later, Cruz is baseball’s home run and RBI leader with 20 and 52, respectively. Cruz ended the month of May with a home run and three runs batted in against the Astros, and is slashing a cool .315/.383/.675. If not for Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Cruz would be a frontrunner for AL Player of the Month honors, as he has belted 13 home runs and knocked in 27 runs in May. Encarnacion is at 16 and 33 on the month, respectively.

As our own Drew Silva pointed out on Twitter, Cruz is on pace for 60 HR and 156 RBI. Should he keep it up, he would set the Orioles’ club record for RBI in a single season, surpassing Ken Williams’ 155 in 1922 with the St. Louis Browns. Miguel Tejada holds the modern Orioles record with 150 in 2002. Chris Davis drove in 138 last season.

  1. wilmyers09 - May 31, 2014 at 9:16 PM


    • renaado - May 31, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      “Player enjoying dat stats”

    • mmeyer3387 - Jun 1, 2014 at 2:25 AM

      You must have put a lot of thought to come with such of an original idea.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 1, 2014 at 7:26 AM


      …yet doing much, much better than any previous season in his career in which he was one PEDs at one point.

    • scatterbrian - Jun 1, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      he wears women’s socks?

  2. jrocknstuff - May 31, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    I don’t consider Browns records to be Orioles records. I mean, does George Sisler lead the Orioles for hits in a season? I understand it’s all one franchise, but I think the book is wiped clean once they moved to Baltimore.

    • Reflex - May 31, 2014 at 11:30 PM

      You may not but MLB does and always has. Lots of franchises move, but the franchise records are the franchise records. City records are a different matter. Does Hank Aaron not have the Braves franchise record for HR’s because the Braves moved midway through his career? Ridiculous.

      • timsizzle83 - Jun 1, 2014 at 4:43 AM

        Absolutely not the case at all. Washington has been 3-4 different teams, they don’t mention the expos any more. First couple seasons maybe but a city and s name change is different than just a physical move.

      • Reflex - Jun 1, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        However the franchise records are still the ones that have been carried over from the Expos. Go have a look at the team leaderboards. You can find them here:

        I’m pretty sure Vladimir Guerrero never suited up for the Nats. 😉

  3. gbrglax - May 31, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    If only we could afford to re-sign him to a multi-year deal. Tough decisions to be made in the warehouse with Weiters, Markakis, Davis, and Hardy coming up over the next 18 months.

    • Reflex - May 31, 2014 at 11:32 PM

      The O’s should not re-sign him under any circumstances. They should let him play for the mega contract he is after, enjoy the fruits of that, then let some other GM pay him big bucks for his decline years. He’s already 33, he’s playing way above his historical level, there really is no upside here, its all downhill. Plus he is almost Adam Dunn defensively.

    • mmeyer3387 - Jun 1, 2014 at 2:47 AM

      You are absolutely right, the Orioles need to make some difficult decisions. They need to decide who they can and can not sign. Additionally, they need to be bold and trade who they can not sign. I would make Hardy, Markakis offers for two to three years and give Tillman a four to five year extension if he can come close to repeating last season. By the way, if Cruz is still hot after the all star break, I would try to extend him for two years, if not, they should trade him. They need to wait on Weiters and Davis. Weiters needs a complete health assessment and Davis needs to show that he can adopt and adjust to how teams are pitching him with shifts. I’m sure that some may disagree with me. But either way, you can’t sign every player.

      • dan1111 - Jun 1, 2014 at 3:58 AM

        You make some good points. Trading Cruz would especially be smart if they are out of it. However, given the soft state of the AL East so far, they may not be out of it by the All Star break.

        Too bad about the Orioles’ off-season. They have a a lot of talent, and having even one good starter to lead their pitching staff would have made such a difference (they are probably disappointed by Ubaldo’s performance, but he is pitching exactly like he has over the last three years).

      • Reflex - Jun 1, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        I already pointed out why they shouldn’t keep Cruz, but another one mentioned here is Hardy. Hardy is a decent but not great SS who is keeping Machado from his native position. Machado is one of the best young talents in the game and a great defender who needs to be at his native position. If Hardy is re-signed, he needs to move to third so Machado can continue his development at short.

        As for Wieters, he’s been durable until now. Depends on his shoulder as to whether they should sign him long term. If he comes back fine, then I’d say yes as he’s a fantastic game caller and great defender who has a bat with some upside.

      • realgone2 - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        O’s need some pitching. If they had some decent starters they’d be running away with the AL east.

  4. stabonerichard - May 31, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    Cruz is playing out of his mind this season. Over the past 5 seasons he posted a *total* of about 12 Wins Above Replacement (a little lower by fangraphs measure; a little higher by bbref). So about 2.5 WAR per season.

    And now, at age 33, he’s already surpassed 2 WAR in just the first couple months of 2014.

    • randomdigits - May 31, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      And that is despite having logged time in LF where he, to put it charitably, of limited ability.

      • madhatternalice - Jun 1, 2014 at 6:56 PM

        That was much kinder than I would have been. Kudos to you.

  5. NYTolstoy - May 31, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Though the Draft pick affected the players and I’m sure they plan to get rid of it. If you look from the teams perspective it works out great. They signed him for 8 mil and he’s on pace for an MVP type season. Plus it’s not like Cruz is walking away poor and next year is likely to get a 3 year deal worth what he expected.

    • Reflex - May 31, 2014 at 11:35 PM

      The draft pick compensation isn’t working well for the teams either. There are many teams that would have liked to sign Drew, but could not as they had to weigh a one year offer to him vs losing a potential future contributer. Teams like the Tigers and Mets all would have loved to sign him on a one year deal, but did not get that option due to not being willing to spend the farm on a rental player.

      • dan1111 - Jun 1, 2014 at 1:29 AM

        Draft pick compensation is stupid. It should have been eliminated long ago. The rationale was to compensate small-market teams for losing their best players to free agency. However, there is no indication that it helps small-market teams more than others. It distorts the market and harms players in an arbitrary way.

        Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew are very similar players. One had draft pick compensation tied to him, and the other did not. Look how that turned out.

      • Reflex - Jun 1, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        I can’t really agree with that. Teams like the Rays have capitalized for years on compensation for letting free agents walk. If anything the union is harder hit because it grants teams incentive to let players walk rather than be active bidders for their services.

        Drew and Peralta are not that similar. Jhonny is reliable and has a better bat. Drew is injury prone and is a better defender. Very different players.

      • dan1111 - Jun 1, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        @Reflex, it appears to me that rich teams benefit just as often from letting players walk. But I could be wrong.

        As for Drew vs Peralta:

        Peralta: .266/.329/.426 102 OPS+ 1.0 dWAR/650 PA

        Drew: .264/.329/.435 98 OPS+ 1.3 dWAR/650 PA

        That is pretty close, in my opinion. Drew has had some injuries, but on the other hand, Peralta just had a steroid suspension. Drew is also a year younger. It seems to me their value would be close to equal if not for one costing a draft pick.

  6. chaseutley - May 31, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Amaro gave Marlon Byrd $16 MM over 2 years. Great.

    • paul621 - May 31, 2014 at 10:16 PM

      And it didn’t cost him a draft pick. What’s your point?

      • Reflex - May 31, 2014 at 11:36 PM

        And he’s playing really well too. I mean what’s there to complain about here?

  7. mzim2756 - May 31, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Chris young got 7.5 good job Sandy

  8. jrocknstuff - May 31, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Cruz has only played more than 128 games once in his career, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

  9. bmoreballers - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    So does that mean after this year if he signs with another team the os get a first round comp pick?

    • jwbiii - Jun 1, 2014 at 4:17 AM

      If they make him a qualifying offer, yes. Probably about $15m.

  10. tbutler704 - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:33 AM

    BREAKING: NY Yankees sign Nelson Cruz to 7yr/$175M contract.

  11. bronxbomber213 - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    Had the Yankees have signed him and he was putting up these numbers for thenim thinkin the narrative
    from O’s fans would be something like “Yankees only sign steroids players” or “Yankees can only win with roided out players!!” I’m also pretty sure there would be a couple “arod must be getting him the good shipments in”
    quotes thrown in there! Tell me I’m wrong Baltimore fans lets be honest now…..

    • realgone2 - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      Yankees suck

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