Dan Duquette and the Baltimore Orioles can be somewhat sneaky if they choose to be. Here we are yesterday thinking based on reports that the O’s were about to sign Kendrys Morales, but instead this morning they’ve signed free agent Nelson Cruz to a one-year contract for $8 million (pending a physical, or course). Cruz is expected to be the everyday DH for the Fighting Showalters, who have seemed to platoon DH and left field for some time. Cruz is a career .266 hitter who averages 32 homers over 162 games. That’s a decent amount of power to add to the Orioles’ lineup. He’s also a career .333 hitter at Camden Yards (albeit as a visitor).
As is always the case, there’s a downside to the deal as well. He also averages 143 strikeouts per 162 games, which is a pretty high total. However speaking for myself I expect that any slugger is going to strike out a lot. Perhaps more importantly however, Cruz is coming off of a 50-game suspension as a result of being named in last year’s Biogenesis “scandal.” Signing a guy with the scarlet letter (“S”) on his shirt might not exactly be the type of look for which the Orioles want to go. However unfortunately there are a lot of guys out there who fall into this category, and many of them end up with new contracts. Of course the Orioles would have a lot of egg on their face if Cruz were to test positive and thus be suspended (this time for 100 games), but hopefully for their sake they don’t find themselves crossing that bridge.
As a result of the signing, the Orioles will forfeit their second round draft pick (55th pick overall) to Texas. So the Orioles will not have a draft pick until the third round now, however that shouldn’t be too tough to swallow if Ubaldo Jimenez and now Cruz have good years. However if the Orioles make a qualifying offer to Cruz next off season and he turns it down, the Birds would in theory get a top 30 pick back in return from whomever would sign him.