Did one signing fire up the Orioles’ fanbase? (updated with Cruz report)

It sure seems like one signing has energized a fanbase.

The Orioles signed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year deal and suddenly no one is posting here that the team will finish in last place, is cheap, is too slow to act or will win just 70 games this year.

Will that one signing make the difference for the Orioles on the field this year? I guess we will find out, but it sure has made a difference, at least so far, with the enthusiasm of a fanbase that was waning.

Now fans seem to be excited at the prospect of the Orioles adding a hitter, and the club is reportedly talking to both Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales.

Buy the arms and buy the bats?

No one is confusing these Orioles with last year’s Blue Jays, or just about any year’s Yankees, but signing Jimenez to a $50 million contract has gotten people excited in the community and probably in the clubhouse, as well.

O’s fans seem to clearly favor Morales over Cruz as an addition to the Orioles lineup as the DH. Is that mostly because fans are turned off by Cruz’s 50-game suspension last year for being linked to the Biogenesis clinic?

Cruz hit .266 last year with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 109 games. He was slugging .506 when he was suspended in August and looked on his way to a 40-homer year. He averaged a homer every 15.3 at-bats last season; had he qualified for the league leaders, that would have ranked fifth in the American League.

Here are some stat comparisons of Cruz and Morales:

Cruz in 2013: .266 average, .327 OBP, .506 slugging, .833 OPS
Morales in 2013: .277 average, .336 OBP, .449 slugging, .785 OPS

Cruz, career numbers: .268 average, .327 OBP. .495 slugging, .823 OPS.
Morales, career numbers: .280 average, .333 OBP, .480 slugging, .813 OPS.

Both players have good numbers in their career at Camden Yards. Morales bats .413 with a .717 slugging percentage over 50 plate appearances. Cruz bats .333 with a .481 slugging percentage over 87 plate appearances.

A switch-hitter, Morales hits a little better from the left side. A right-handed hitter, Cruz hits better against left-handed pitching, but also has respectable numbers against right-handers.

It seems either player would look nice in the lineup providing some protection for Chris Davis. Could the O’s feature a 3-4-5 of Adam Jones/Davis/Cruz or Jones/Davis/Morales?

So, O’s fans, which bat do you prefer and should they even add a hitter after leading the majors in homers and finishing tied for fourth in runs in the American League in 2013?

Reports on Cruz: There are reports this morning that the Orioles are closing in on a deal with Cruz. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com posted this story, reporting that “Free agent slugger Nelson Cruz is close to a deal with the Orioles, according to people familiar with the deal.

“The Cruz signing, once finalized, would be the second major signing within days for Baltimore, which is obviously going for it now. The Orioles will have one of the better lineups in baseball once Cruz is in the fold.

There are still a couple issues to be resolved, according to sources, though a deal looks extremely likely.”

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com filed this tweet:

“Source confirms #Orioles close on Cruz, as first reported by @JonHeymanCBS . Deal expected to be a bargain, well below initial expectations.”

A Cruz signing would add another power bat to the middle of the Orioles order and to a team that already led the majors with 212 homers in 2013. That was 23 more than Seattle, the next closest club, which hit 189.

Duquette’s quote from December: In a video interview at the Winter Meetings in December I asked Dan Duquette if the club would consider signing a player that had a previous suspension connected to the use of performance enhancing drugs.

“We do our due diligence on all the players. I think that, you know, being part of Major League Baseball, there is program in place that deals with that. Once it’s dealt with, I think the players can go back to work,” he said then.

Click here to go back and watch that interview and Duquette answers two questions on that topic toward the end of that interview in Orlando.

Report of deal done: Now according to a report from Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, Cruz is going to be an Oriole. Rojas just tweeted:

“Nelson Cruz and #Orioles agree 1 year $8 million contract. Incentives. Physical tomorrow.”

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