The Baltimore Orioles agreed to a contract with power-hitting outfielder Nelson Cruz on a 1-year, $8 million dollar contract on February 22nd.
Cruz, a former member of the Texas Rangers, batted .266 with 27 home runs and 76 runs batted in over 109 games in 2013, before the Biogenesis scandal led to a 50 game suspension after the All-Star break. Cruz has been an extremely consistent power threat in the Rangers lineup the last several years, as he has hit at least 22 HRs every season since 2009.
Cruz fills a much needed role for the Orioles at the designated hitter spot. A former right-fielder for the Rangers, Cruz could potentially step into a defensive role for if left fielder David Lough struggles early on. The addition of Cruz might signal that the Orioles do not feel former prospect Nolan Reimold is capable of an everyday role, as he was the top internal candidate for the DH role.
With the DH role filled, the only remaining clear weakness on the roster is a second base. The Orioles could use a veteran to fill the role before a prospect like Jonathan Schoop is ready to make an impact. The two current competitors for the job, Ryan Flaherty and newly acquired Jemile Weeks, will battle for the the starting role throughout spring training.
I think that the Orioles were able to pull off a good deal price wise with Cruz, as he was willing to accept a short contract for less money to prove that the Biogenesis scandal is behind him. However, I feel that the Orioles have more pressing needs they could have addressed besides adding another hitter.
While the offense is as good as any in the American league, the bullpen really needs a proven closer for the ninth inning. I don’t think that likely in-house option Tommy Hunter has had enough experience to justify his placement in this role. After all, he was used as a starting pitcher before he was traded to the Orioles from the Texas Rangers in the Chris Davis deal. However, the Cruz signing gives the Orioles more depth in their offensive attack, and also gives manager Buck Showalter more options should an injury pop up in the outfield. With the addition of Cruz, here is my projected Orioles lineup for Opening Day, barring injury.
1. Nick Markakis, RF
2. Manny Machado, 3B
3. Adam Jones, CF
4. Chris Davis, 1B
5. Nelson Cruz, DH
6. J.J. Hardy, SS
7. M. Wieters, C
8. Ryan Flaherty, 2B
9. David Lough, LF
Chris Tillman, SP