SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles were supposed to take the field at 10 a.m. for their pre-workout stretch, but it’s been pushed back another hour. Players are still busy with photo day.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette walked through the media workroom earlier this morning. I asked whether he had anything to say, my fingers on the home row of my keyboard.
“Still working on it,” he replied with a grin.
The Orioles are working to finalize a deal with outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to sources and various reports. They’d have to surrender the 55th pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, making them spectators until the third round.
Don’t get used to it.
“There’s other avenues in signing and bringing players into the organization other than just the draft,” Duquette said after the Ubaldo Jimenez press conference.
“Now do we want to be giving up all our draft picks every year? No, that’s not something we want to be doing long-term. But we made a conscious choice to do that this year to put the resources into our pitching staff with the core. We thought that was the right choice to make.”
The Cruz talks gained steam after his representatives reached out to the Orioles again. They’ve been initiating contact, according to sources.
Cruz, 33, brings the stigma of a 50-game suspension last year that was tied to the Biogenesis scandal, but he’s viewed as less of a health risk than Kendrys Morales. He’s also considered more valuable as an extra outfielder, though he’s considered below-average defensively.
Cruz batted .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers in 109 games last season. He’s a career .268/.327/.495 hitter with 157 homers in 804 games.
In 21 games at Camden Yards, Cruz is a career .333/.368/.481 hitter with six doubles and two homers. However, I take those stats with a grain of salt because he’s been facing Orioles pitching. Who knows how he’d fare in their lineup.
As for his splits, Cruz is a career .285/.356/.513 hitter against left-handed pitching and a .262/.317/.489 hitter against right-handers.
The Orioles most likely would project Cruz as a full-time designated hitter, which directly impacts Delmon Young, who signed a minor league deal. Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce, also candidates to fill that role as well as play left field, are out of options.
It would be interesting to see how Cruz is received inside a clubhouse that prides itself on being clean and offered little support of players involved in the scandal.
Update: The Orioles have reached agreement on a one-year deal with Cruz pending a physical, according to a source.
It’s believed that the deal guarantees Cruz $8 million and includes incentives.
The Orioles’ payroll increases to about $105 million with this agreement.
In less than a week, the Orioles have signed Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon to a three-year, $5.575 million deal and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract, and reached agreement with Cruz.
That’s letting the market play out.
The Orioles could make Cruz a qualifying offer after the season and gain a supplementary draft pick if he declines.
ESPNdeportes.com first reported the agreement.
Update II: The incentives are worth $750,000 based on time spent on the roster.
After much research here in the media room, it appears that the $105 million payroll will be the highest on opening day in club history.
The Orioles led the majors with 212 home runs last season, but there’s always room for another power bat. Cruz has hit 33, 22, 29, 24 and 27 homers the past five years.