Over the past five seasons, outfielder Nelson Cruz has batted .272 for the Texas Rangers with 162-game averages of 35 home runs, 106 RBI, 87 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases. He has made two All-Star appearances over that span. Though he is past his youthful years (by MLB standards, at least), Cruz is still just 33 years old and only became an everyday player in 2009, so he should have plenty left in the tank.
As a free agent this offseason, however, Cruz was greeted with a cold market. The Rangers very well may have brought him back had they not signed Shin-Soo Choo, but that signing made Cruz expendable. Factors that diminished other teams' interest in Cruz included a PED suspension in 2013, as well as his free agency being tied to draft pick compensation.
Over the weekend, however, Cruz finally received an offer he found suitable. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported Saturday that Cruz had agreed to a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles worth $8 million. The contract includes an addition $750,000 that can be earned through incentives. Cruz underwent a physical on Sunday, and the two sides finalized the deal on Monday afternoon.
It's a strong signing for the O's, who bring in a player on the cheap who has been very productive over the past five years. Despite playing in 128 games or less in each of the past five seasons, Cruz never failed to reach 22 home runs or 76 RBI over that span. The PED suspension is certainly a concern, but Cruz's power should continue to be on display at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards, where righties such as Cruz have a particular advantage.
Cruz is expected to fill the designated hitter role for the Orioles, and he'll probably bat somewhere between fourth and sixth in the lineup. He'll have a number of talented players batting in front of him, so he should be able to post some great RBI numbers.
A one-year deal is certainly not what Cruz had in mind when he became a free agent, but he is landing in a good spot and should be able to put together a strong campaign, boosting his stock for next offseason when he'll be 34 years old.