Orioles Gamble On Nelson Cruz

Baltimore Orioles Reportedly Sign Former Texas Rangers Slugger Nelson Cruz

After spending the last eight seasons with the Texas Rangers posting a slash line of .268/.327/.495 including 157 home runs Nelson Cruz has reportedly signed a 1-year/$8M dollar contract that includes $850K in incentives with the Baltimore Orioles.

The apparent signing was first reported by CBS Sports Jon Heyman (Link) and terms of the deal was first reported by ESPNDeportes Enrique Rojas (LINK).

Rangers_Nelson_Cruz_1In 2013 he was elected to the all-star team for the second time in his career but after just 109 games (456 plate appearances) was suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.  Overall he played in 102 games in right field (7 at DH) and hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs while driving in 76.

By signing Cruz the Baltimore Orioles will surrender their second round pick (#55) overall. The Orioles lost their first round pick (#17) for signing Ubaldo Jiminez.

The salary is a steep drop from what he thought he was going to get when the free agency period began and he turned down the qualifying offer of 1-yr/$14.1M. Some believe that Cruz’s contract will serve as a justification to re-evaluate the qualifying offer process but using him just is not a good case.

This is a case of a player believing an agent when he says he is worth 4-year/$75M when the data over the last several season suggests he is worth around $9-$10M per year.

He is turning 34 years old this season and over the last three years he has rated a 1.2, 1.1, and 1.5 wins above replacement by fangraphs.com.  His defense has eroded having a negative UZR/150 rating each of the last three seasons (-7.9, -3.3, and -6.5). He has also struggled to match his production on the road posting a triple slash line of .294/.356/.556 in Arlington while struggling to hit away posting a line of .242/.299/.435.

In the two years prior to his involvement with Biogenesis (2010-2011)  he had a hard time staying on the field suffering from repeated hamstring and thigh  injuries that landed him on the disabled list 5 times.

Overall, his contract is a great gamble by the Orioles and a great fit for Cruz in terms of hitter friendly ballpark and not having to stress his legs in the field as he’ll be the Orioles primary DH. If he proves he can stay healthy and maintain his power through the course of a 162 game season he should be able to increase his market next winter.


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