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Cruz moves on for four-year deal with Mariners

BALTIMORE -- Nelson Cruz is off the free-agent market, agreeing to a four-year, $57 million contract with the Mariners, a source confirmed on Monday.

The deal, pending a physical, means the Orioles will get a Draft pick as compensation for losing Cruz, who declined Baltimore's $15.3 million qualifying offer last month.

The Mariners have not announced the signing.

Cruz, who had a career year in 2014, had said he wanted to stay with the Orioles, but ultimately the length of the Mariners' deal won out. The O's made a three-year offer earlier this offseason to keep Cruz, who they knew would likely seek a four- or five-year pact, and were aware he had a $58 million offer on the table elsewhere.

The 34-year-old Cruz, who hit a career-high and Major League-leading 40 homers with 108 RBIs in 159 games this past season, was seen as one of the premier hitters on the market. He was named Most Valuable Oriole by members of the local media and he also had a strong postseason, hitting two home runs in three games during the American League Division Series against the Tigers. He had a double and two RBIs as the Orioles were swept by the Royals in the AL Championship Series.

The Mariners reportedly had a deal with Cruz last offseason before ownership blocked it and Baltimore ultimately signed the slugger to a one-year, $8 million bargain deal in one of the best moves made last offseason.

The departure of Cruz places a lot of pressure on Baltimore to add a power-hitting outfielder and could help them ramp up negotiations to retain longtime right fielder Nick Markakis, with whom negotiations have stalled. The Orioles were said on Sunday to have interest in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and they have also been linked to veteran Torii Hunter. Cruz got the bulk of his at-bats as a designated hitter, a spot the Orioles will also have to fill with his departure.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
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