The Baltimore Orioles offered free agent Nelson Cruz a three-year deal before he hit free agency this week, ESPN's Buster Olney reported Tuesday. The Orioles reportedly plan to remain patient while Cruz, coming off a career year, explores the market with other teams.
Cruz also declined a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer from the AL East champion Orioles on Monday, according to The Baltimore Sun. After leading MLB with 40 home runs and batting .271 with 108 RBI, Cruz is seeking a multi-year contract. Cruz joined the Orioles in February after signing a one-year, $8 million free-agent deal.
With the qualifying offer compensation attached to Cruz, the Orioles will receive the highest unprotected draft pick from any team that signs him away. Baltimore forfeited the No. 55 overall pick when it signed Cruz before last season.
Cruz has said his desire is to remain with the Orioles. It remains to be seen whether another team will offer the multiyear deal he's seeking. Cruz will turn 35 in July, and is coming off a season in which he played 89 of his 159 games as a designated hitter. He also joined the Orioles on the one-year deal after he was suspended 50 games in August 2013 for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Teams could be tempted by Cruz's role in the Orioles breakout success last season. Baltimore made the playoffs for the first time in two seasons, reaching the ACLS before it was swept by the eventual World Series runner-up Kansas City Royals. Cruz himself has enjoyed success in the postseason, hitting 16 homers in 41 career playoff games.
- Mike Fiammetta