The Baltimore Orioles and outfielder Nelson Cruz have agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal, according to media reports Saturday. Cruz can make an extra $750,000 in incentives. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported this morning that the Orioles and Cruz were close to an agreement.
The Orioles have been busy as of late, signing Ubaldo Jimenez and now Cruz in just a matter of days. Cruz had a chance at a much more favorable contract; he declined the Texas Rangers' $14.1 million qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason. The Rangers will receive the number 30 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and the Orioles will lose the number 55 pick. The Orioles already lost the number 17 pick for the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez.
In 413 plate appearances due to a 50 game suspension (for a banned substance), Cruz hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI (123 OPS+). Over his career, Cruz has posted a 114 OPS+ while posting a .495 slugging percentage. Nelson Cruz has a 11.6 WAR (Baseball Reference) and a fantastic 127 oWAR over his career.
Since 2009, when Cruz received 500 plate appearances for the first time, he has hit a triple-slash line of .272/.331/.511 while averaging 27 home runs and 81 RBI per season (119 OPS+). He turned himself into one of the most feared players in the American League. In 21 career games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Cruz has hit a triple-slash line of .333/.368/.481 while hitting hitting 2 homers and driving in 9. That would average out to about 7.5 homers and 34.5 RBI in 81 games.
The Orioles' right fielders in 2013 were among the worst in baseball. That position posted just a .668 OPS in 2013, ranking fourth-worst in the Major Leagues. Cruz will not only bring power to the lineup, but also fill a spot where the Orioles had trouble with in 2013. Their regular right fielder, Nick Markakis, posted a career-low 86 OPS+. However, Markakis has a career 113 OPS+, which should be enough to shift him to another outfield spot. With left fielder Nate McLouth now with the Nationals, expect Markakis to move to left.
The Orioles are going all-in in 2014, showing that even more by signing Nelson Cruz to just a one-year deal. The American League East will be a very exciting division to watch in 2014, as the Yankees, Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays all are made good moves to attempt to knock off the Boston Red Sox. How will these teams stack up in 2014? It's hard to know, but the Orioles have done a really good job this offseason getting some talent that could bring them to the top of the division this upcoming season. I cannot wait for some Orioles baseball.