More notes and stats on Nelson Cruz, and a possible lineup (Hobgood note)

Well, we heard and read that the Orioles were all in on A.J. Burnett. They went from that to actually adding Suk-min Yoon, Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. Of course, the Cruz deal is not official yet. Yes, the free agent season had some twists and turns over the last few days, weeks and months.

When it becomes official, Cruz’s addition would give the Orioles six players on their roster that were on the 2013 American League All-Star team.

The Orioles certainly used the system to their advantage in the acquisition of Cruz. With his value diminished by the draft pick compensation attached to him, it made his pickup more possible for an O’s team that only had to give up the 55th overall pick as opposed to a team that would have to part with a first-round pick. It all transpired to bring Cruz and the Orioles together.

When Cruz could be signed for a one-year deal and just $8 million plus incentives, how could the Orioles not do that?

For such a low cost they got a home run hitter to bat behind Chris Davis in the lineup and, if Cruz were offered a qualifying offer by the Orioles next winter and turns it down the club will then get a draft pick somewhere in the 30s, which would be much higher than the one they have to part with to get him in the first place.

Here are more notes on Cruz:

* He has hit at least 22 homers with 76 RBIs the last five seasons. He has just one 30-homer season, hitting 33 in 2009.

* He is one of 13 players with 20 or more homers in each of the last five seasons, one of six in the American League, along with Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz and Nick Swisher.

* He has 10 career multi-homer games. He had just one last year, on June 17, against Oakland.

* He made the AL All-Star team in 2009 and 2013. He went 0-for-1 with a walk in last summer’s game, entering for the AL in right field in the sixth inning.

* He hit .338 (51-for-151) with two outs in an inning, the second-highest figure in the AL and fifth-best in the majors (minimum 150 plate appearances). Cruz also had 14 homers with two outs, joining Cabrera as the only players in either of the last two seasons to hit .338-or-better with 14 or more home runs with two outs in an inning.

* Cruz hit eight postseason homers in 17 games for Texas in 2011 to tie Carlos Beltran and Barry Bonds for most homers in one postseason. He batted .364 with six homers and 13 RBIs to win the American League Championship Series MVP award as the Rangers beat Detroit to reach the World Series. Cruz hit six homers in six games and 22 at-bats in that series against the Tigers.

In addition to avoiding another suspension, Cruz will also have to stay healthy to really help the Orioles. He has been on the disabled list six times in his career. That includes once in 2009, three times in 2010 and twice in 2011, mostly with hamstring injuries. Cruz did play 159 games in 2012 and was on his way to another 150-game or more season last year until his suspension in August.

Will Cruz become the club’s full-time DH? That certainly seems likely and his splits are pretty balanced. In his career, he bats .285 with an OPS of .869 against left-handed pitching and the numbers are .262 and .806 against right-handers.

Last year, Cruz had a slash line of .279/.359/.462 with an OPS of .821 against left-handers and a slash line of .262/.316/.521 and a better OPS of .837 against right-handed pitchers.

By the way, here is a look at one possible lineup:

RF - Nick Markakis
3B - Manny Machado
CF - Adam Jones
1B - Chris Davis
DH - Nelson Cruz
C - Matt Wieters
SS - J.J. Hardy
LF - David Lough/Nolan Reimold
2B - Ryan Flaherty/Jemile Weeks

Note on Hobgood: The Orioles 2009 first-round draft pick, right-hander Matt Hobgood, will pitch out of the bullpen during the 2014 minor league season. Hobgood underwent shoulder surgery in April of 2012 and missed all of that season. He returned last year, going 9-4 with an ERA of 4.32 over 93 2/3 innings between Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Frederick.

“The quality of his pitches was much better out of the bullpen,” O’s director of player development Brian Graham said tonight.

Hobgood’s fastball velocity returned during his healthy 2013 season and he touched the mid 90s at times. As a bullpen pitcher he may even have a chance to start the 2014 season with Double-A Bowie. I’ll have more on this Monday.

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