The Baltimore Orioles on Saturday agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to industry sources. The deal is pending a physical and includes $750,000 in incentives based on time on the active roster.
After an idle offseason that appeared to threaten their momentum in the AL East, the Orioles signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez for $50 million over four years just three days ago. In Cruz, they added the power bat that would give them one of the better lineups in the American League, and at a bargain.
Cruz found his free agency dampened because he’d rejected a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, which meant he’d cost his new team a draft pick as well. Jimenez, along with the still-unsigned Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew and Ervin Santana, carried the same designation. The qualifying offer was worth $14.1 million, so the loss for Cruz was extreme.
Cruz drew interest this winter from several places, including Texas, Seattle and, of course, Baltimore. The drag of the qualifying offer limited the field, however, and Cruz will play a season for the Orioles and be eligible for free agency again next winter. Assuming he passes his physical, Cruz is expected to be in camp with the Orioles in the next few days.
While Cruz, 33, hit 27 home runs in 109 games in 2013, he also served a 50-game suspension for his ties to Biogenesis, the anti-aging clinic that supplied performance-enhancing drugs to more than a dozen major-league players. He returned in time to play one game – Game 163 against the Tampa Bay Rays – and was hitless in four at-bats.