After Cruz passes physical, deal official
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette preached patience all winter long. In the end, it paid off, with Baltimore officially making its third acquisition in less than a week in signing veteran Nelson Cruz on Monday.
There was a news conference held Tuesday morning to formally introduce the 33-year-old Cruz. To clear room on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Chris Jones, who held lefties to a .196 batting average in the Minors last season and was acquired in the Luis Ayala trade from Atlanta last spring, was designated for assignment.
"We have a player, one of the top sluggers in the American League, who's been able to hit over 20 home runs and slug over .500," Duquette said. "We think he'll be a real additive to the lineup and making the team more entertaining. Now we've got five, six players that can hit over 20 home runs."
Cruz declined a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers to test the free-agent market, and the O's were able to get him at a discounted rate: a one-year, $8 million pact with incentives that could make it closer to $9 million. Seen primarily as the team's designated hitter, Cruz joins new pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon in a Baltimore organization that suddenly looks primed to compete in 2014.
"They're getting a power bat and a guy who drives in big runs," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Cruz, who has hit at least 22 homers in each of the past five seasons. "They're getting a guy who loves to play baseball. They're getting his power in that small ballpark. He's a tremendous teammate. All the qualities you want in a winner, that's Nelson."
Cruz, who strengthens the Orioles' lineup considerably, also brings some baggage, given that he was implicated in the Biogenesis scandal and suspended 50 games as a result. But while several O's players have been vocal in speaking out against performance-enhancing drugs, the issue of how Cruz will fit into the clubhouse doesn't appear to be a problem.
"He's my teammate now and I got to be a teammate, and no matter if you disagree or agree with your teammates, they are still your teammates," said Nick Markakis, who has called PED users out for "stealing" money. "He's going to be welcome here and we are going to play as one. That's for sure."
Markakis didn't think there would be any ill-will among the other players when Cruz, who arrived Saturday for his physical, puts on an Orioles uniform. Chris Davis, who has also been vocal about PED users and maintains that the home run record is 61, played with Cruz in Texas, as did several other members of the clubhouse, including Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day.
"We know how things go on in this clubhouse. We know how we do things, and we do things certain ways," Markakis said. "Guys coming in here are going to have to adjust to that. It's not just about making adjustments in the batter's box and on the pitcher's mound, it's making adjustments to a new clubhouse, a new team and so forth. There's adjustments, not just on the field, but off the field, too.
"I'm aware of what's going on and what's been going on in baseball, but my opinion doesn't change toward anything. He's part of this team now and he's going to be in this clubhouse, and we're going to welcome him just like anybody else. He's going to be part of this team."
On the field, Cruz brings an upgrade to the DH spot, and the two-time All-Star and former American League Championship Series MVP (in 2011 with the Rangers) is a nine-year veteran of the big leagues with 157 homers and 489 RBIs. Cruz batted .266 with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 109 games for the Rangers last season.
"It's going to be fun," Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal last week, said of the O's newest addition. "He's a superstar. Forget everything that happened with him, he's good."