SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles have their third free-agent signing in a week.
Outfielder Nelson Cruz passed his physical and signed a one-year, $8 million deal that includes another $750,000 in possible incentives. A press conference will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and will include executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter.
Same arrangement as the other two press conferences. It’s become a familiar scene.
The Orioles designated left-hander Chris Jones for assignment to make room for Cruz on the 40-man roster.
Showalter said he spoke to Cruz last night and “he’s pretty excited.”
The Cruz talks gained steam after his representatives again reached out to the Orioles. They had been initiating contact, according to sources.
Cruz, 33, 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.
Cruz has averaged 27 home runs over the past five seasons.
The Orioles weren’t scared away by Cruz’s 50-game suspension last year that was tied to the Biogenesis scandal. Players have offered their support inside the clubhouse at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, include Nick Markakis and Chris Davis, two of the more outspoken opponents of steroid use in baseball.
The Orioles also held talks with representatives for Kendrys Morales in their search for a designated hitter, but Cruz settled for a one-year deal with a chance to re-enter the free-agent market next winter. The Orioles view him as less of a health risk than Morales, and though Cruz is below average defensively, he could get some starts in left field.
In 21 games at Camden Yards, Cruz is a career .333/.368/.481 hitter with six doubles and two homers. He’s a career .285/.356/.513 hitter against left-handed pitching and a .262/.317/.489 hitter against right-handers.
Showalter could slot Cruz between Davis and Matt Wieters in a lineup that’s flush with power hitters.
The market played out and the Orioles played it to their advantage, signing Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon to a three-year, $5.575 million deal and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract before the agreement with Cruz. It’s been an impressive flurry of activity in one week.
The Orioles have surrendered their first- and second-round picks and their competitive balance pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. They’ve also hiked their opening day payroll to a franchise-record $105 million.
Updated: The press conference at 9:30 a.m. will be aired live on MASN HD.
Cruz will wear No. 23, which belonged to first base coach Wayne Kirby.
Cruz has batted .278/.336/.683 with 14 home runs in 34 post-season games (137 plate appearances), ranking fifth all-time in playoff history in slugging percentage and tied for 11th in home runs. He was named MVP of the 2011 American League Championship Series against Detroit, batting .364/.440/1.273 with six home runs in six games, helping Texas reach the World Series for the second straight year.
In 2012, Cruz set career-highs in games (159), at-bats (585), runs (86), hits (152), doubles (45) and RBI (90). A career .268/.327/.506 hitter in nine big league seasons with Milwaukee (2005) and Texas (2006-13), Cruz was named an AL All-Star for the first time in 2009, when he set career-highs with 33 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
Jones was 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 31 games at Triple-A Norfolk. Left-handers batted .196/.291/.268 in 128 plate appearances.
The Orioles acquired Jones from the Braves in April for reliever Luis Ayala. They put him on the 40-man roster to protect him in the Rule 5 draft, and his removal today comes as a bit of a surprise.