Earlier in the week, the Baltimore Orioles signed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in a move that was a bit of a head scratcher. Their most recent free agent signing makes a big more sense. On Saturday, the Orioles reportedly reached an agreement with former Ranger outfielder Nelson Cruz on a one-year, $8 million deal.
This move makes a lot of sense for the Orioles, who are desperate to compete this year after taking a step back in 2013. He joins an already potent Baltimore lineup that includes Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones. With this addition, the Orioles now have one of the better lineups in all of baseball, which will matter in what figures to be a tough American League East.
Cruz makes sense for the Orioles for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s only a one-year contract, so it gives Cruz something to prove and it allows Baltimore to be rid of him if he has a down year. Additionally, if Cruz performs well, then he was a steal at $8 million and the Orioles may have the inside track on signing him to a multi-year deal at the conclusion of the season.
Last season, before receiving a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic, Cruz was putting together his best season as a pro. He was voted as an American League All-Star and finished the season with 27 home runs and 76 RBI, despite only registering 413 at-bats.
That production is exactly what the Orioles need right now, as they always seemed one bat short a season ago when they finished just 85-77. While they were in the Wild Card race for most of the season, that result was disappointing for a Baltimore team who made the playoffs in 2012.
Now, with a slightly above average pitching staff and a slowly aging core of star players, the Orioles’ window for winning championships is slowly closing. They may have another couple years before they have to change their plan of attack and take a few years away from seriously competing. However, this move showed that the window is wide open in 2014. Signing Cruz to a cost-effective contract may just help them win a championship before the window shuts.