Cruz has earned big payday, but should Orioles give it to him?

Nelson Cruz said he’d like to remain an Oriole. But for that to happen, the club will likely need to sign him to a long-term deal of at least three years - and probably more.

Cruz is about to hit the free agent market, and if he does, it seems likely some team will throw big dollars his way after a 40-homer, 108-RBI season. He set career highs in both categories, leading the majors in homers.

The Orioles’ best move may be to offer Cruz the qualifying offer of $15.3 million on a one-year deal. If he turns it down, which is likely, the Orioles will get a draft pick.

cruz-pointing-up-white-front-sidebar.pngSo for the modest price of $8 million, the O’s would get one strong season of Cruz and a draft pick.

Cruz was a great fit in the Orioles clubhouse this season and could not have handled himself better on and off the field.

Would the club sign Cruz to a multi-year deal, one that could take $50 million or more, perhaps much more?

Some arguments against that:

* Cruz would be 37 at the end of a three-year deal in 2017.

* Cruz posted career highs in homers and RBIs this year, and it’s possible his production will start to fall off now that he is 34.

* Cruz played 128 games or fewer from 2009-11. In fairness to him, he played 159 games in both 2012 and this year, and would have played a high number last year if he hadn’t been suspended 50 games.

* If - and this is a real big if - the Orioles decided to non-tender Chris Davis and walk away from his $10 million price tag, that would provide more dollars and also more urgency to keep someone like Cruz batting in the middle or the order.

Cruz was a bargain this year at $8 million, but he could turn into an overpay for his next team at a very big salary. Can he continue to produce like he did this year and for how many more seasons?

Investing $50 million or more in Cruz moving forward comes with big risk as he tries to replicate a career year starting in a 2015 season during which he turns 35.

The guy was awesome for the Orioles this year and no doubt fans have developed an emotional attachment to a guy that was a class act and carried this team at times during the season.

Cruz has earned his payday coming off the season he had in 2014. The question is, should that payday come from the Orioles?

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