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Nelson Cruz Looks to the Future in Signing with Baltimore Orioles

Nelson Cruz

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Erstwhile Texas Rangers‘ right fielder Nelson Cruz took a 30 percent pay-cut to sign a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Why did Cruz leave $6 million on the table in Arlington for a same-length contract in another city halfway across the country?

Last November, the Rangers tendered a one-year, $14 million qualifying offer to Cruz. Nellie rejected the offer, thinking that he could get a multiyear deal someplace else. But only the Seattle Mariners expressed interest in such an arrangement, and talks apparently never went beyond the kicking-the-tires phase.

Cruz had to re-think his wish list almost on the fly. He and agent Adam Katz did their homework, and the Orioles seemed like a good fit. The fact that Baltimore only had to give up a second-round compensatory draft pick (the 55th overall in the next draft) gave general manager Dan Duquette some added incentive.

The Orioles currently have left-hander Nick Markakis atop the depth chart in right field. Markakis only had 10 home runs all last year while Cruz had 27 in a little more than two-thirds of a season. Although his defense is subpar, Nellie could see considerable playing time in right field or possibly even move ahead of Markakis.

The Rangers, on the other hand, are very happy with right fielder Alex Rios. Cruz may have played a handful of games in right but would have been almost exclusively a DH. Many players, and agents, see the DH position as a spot for rehabbing players and defensive liabilities. The 33-year-old Cruz clearly feels as though he can play a few more years and does not want either one of those labels.

Which brings us to the real reason Nellie went to Baltimore: He’s playing for a multiyear deal in 2015. Texas is still something of an MLB backwater, while Baltimore is much closer to the Holy Trinity of Broadcasting: New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Nelson Cruz wants to put on a show and get one last big payday before retirement, and Baltimore is a much better place to do just that.