Nelson Cruz Is Gonna Get Paid. Will It Be The O’s Paying Him?

Sports and Bets — November 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm by

The Orioles obliged themselves and the Major League Free Agency system yesterday by offering slugger Nelson Cruz a one year, roughly $15 million qualifying offer.  By doing this the Orioles ensured themselves a draft pick as compensation in the event that Cruz leaves the team via free agency.  And Cruz will become a free agent once he rejects Baltimore’s qualifying offer.  Nelson is seeking a multi-year deal, and as the reigning 2014 MLB home run king, he’s sure to get one.  The question on Orioles fans’ minds is whether or not that multi-year deal will come from Baltimore or elsewhere.

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Rumor has it that the Rangers, Mariners, and of course, the Yankees are all expected to be in on the Nelson Cruz sweepstakes. All make sense.  Cruz has a history with Texas, Seattle is asserting themselves as a contender and a free-spender, and the Yankees, are the Yankees; they go after everybody who’s worth a damn and Cruz would bring some major pop back to their aging lineup.

Can the O’s compete with these three big spenders?  It’s a legitimate concern for O’s fans.  All three of the clubs with rumored interest in Cruz are willing to spend, but the Yankees and their uber-deep pockets are especially concerning.  Especially because the Yankees aren’t afraid to offer multi-year deals to older players. (Cruz is 34 years old.  The pinstripes certainly wouldn’t be scared to offer Nelson Cruz and his 40 home runs a four year deal if they felt his presence in their lineup was paramount to bringing them back to the playoffs. Hell, New York will be paying A-Rod roughly $20 million a year until he’s 41 years old; and just prior to last season, the Yankees gave Carlos Beltran $45 million for three years, and Beltran turned 37 three weeks into the contract.  So it’s definitely not out the realm of possibility to think that the Yankees could offer a 4yr./$72 million deal to Cruz.  For a 40 home run/108 RBI guy, the Yankees would probably consider $72 million a bargain.  The Orioles won’t see it that way.

Personally, I don’t see the Birds offering four years to Cruz. If the Yankees, or anybody else for that matter, do offer four years, the Orioles are probably screwed.  I see the Birds offering 3 years at $14-17 million per.  That’s probably more than a fair offer for a 34-year-old slugger with limited defensive ability, but teams like the Yankees and the Rangers don’t care about fair, they just care about getting that extra power bat into their lineup.  Hopefully for us, neither club covets Cruz enough to offer a fourth year.

Meanwhile, it’s not all doom and gloom for Baltimore. Nelson has expressed a desire to remain an Oriole- he wants to be here and that has to account for something.  Cruz also is viewed as primarily a designated hitter and that could keep his perceived worth in that key $14-17 million range.  The fact that a team would have to give a first round pick to the Orioles to gain Cruz’s service helps the Birds’ chances of keeping him as well.

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It also helps that the O’s are, or at least should be, in win now mode.  With long term contracts, or lack thereof, looming on the horizon with Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Steve Pearce, and eventually Manny Machado, the Birds should have an urgent desire to compete for a championship next season.  Without Nelson Cruz, that would be a tougher assignment than it already was proven to be this past season.

I think the O’s will ultimately offer Cruz a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 years/$51 million.  That will be their top dollar offer.  If he doesn’t get a fourth year elsewhere, he’s liable to take it, even if he gets a few million more from another club on another three year deal.  That’s because he likes playing here and would maybe give a small home-team discount to stay on a three year deal.  But if Cruz gets offered four years from a club outside of Baltimore- he’s gone like one of his Camden Yard bombs.  That extra year of guaranteed cash would be too much to pass up, and the O’s would be left with a gaping hole in the middle of their lineup.

 

cover :pressboxonline

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