The Baltimore Orioles continued their fancy offseason spending, agreeing to a one-year contract with Nelson Cruz for $8 million. The contract's details were reported by ESPN's Enrique Rojas, and as always, the completion of the deal is pending a physical. Cruz is reportedly going to serve as Baltimore's designated hitter, and I'd expect that Cruz will displace non-roster invitee Delmon Young on Baltimore's depth chart – though considering how frail Nolan Reimold is, Young will probably end up getting a chance in Baltimore sooner rather than later.
Baltimore will lose their second-round pick, the 55th overall in June's Draft, because of their signing of Cruz. They already lost their first round pick when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez earlier this week. The Rangers will receive a compensation pick as a result of the signing.
Cruz's stock fell through the floor this winter after he turned down Texas's $14.1 million qualifying offer, and teams became unwilling to forfeit a draft pick for his services.The 33-year old was suspended for 50 games last year as part of the Biogenesis mess, but was having a good enough season before meeting the bench, hitting .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs in 109 games.
Sticking Cruz at DH helps the Orioles avoid the worst part of his game – his terrible outfield defense. Considering that Orioles DHs put together a terrible lie of .234/.289/.415 a year ago, Cruz will represent a massive upgrade, even if he's only a league average player. Baltimore had a top ten offense last year, but those numbers were largely buoyed by a super-human effort from Chris Davis, who launched 54 homers and finished third in the AL MVP race a year ago.
$8 million for Cruz on a one-year deal is a steal, and a better deal for Baltimore than Kendrys Morales on a similar contract. Baltimore wasn't a contender added just Jimenez, but adding Jimenez and Cruz makes them a lot more interesting in the AL playoff picture. The 55th overall pick hasn't exactly produced much major league talent over the last 20 years, with Brett Anderson and Dave Bush sitting at the top of the heap of players at the position.
As for Cruz, it's an unfortunate turn of events for him, but one that was almost self-inflicted. Cruz turned down Texas' qualifying offer despite coming off of a 50-game suspension. Unlike Jhonny Peralta, who got a four-year deal from the Cardinals before the Winter Meetings despite also getting nailed in the Biogenesis scandal, the multi-year offers for Cruz never really surfaced. He reportedly turned down a five-year contract from the Mariners, but concrete reports of that deal were never confirmed. If Cruz produces for the Orioles in 2014, he could be in the same situation next winter if Baltimore makes him a qualifying offer – but at 34, I highly doubt he'll turn it down this time around.