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Orioles101 Free Agent Profile: Outfielder Nelson Cruz, is He an Answer?

December 5th, 2013 at 10:28 AM
By Josh Michael

We shift gears from the closer opening to the outfield with our free agent profiles as we highlight outfielder Nelson Cruz who has recently been linked to be an interest to the Baltimore Orioles.

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports 1, the Orioles are active in the market for bats which includes Cruz.

'Nelson Cruz' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Baltimore has done nothing thus far this season to improve their current roster and have actually gotten worse with the trade of Jim Johnson, and having not yet resigned any of their free agents such as Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth, Jason Hammel, Scott Feldman and Michael Morse.

Orioles fans and players alike are anxiously awaiting and hoping the front office makes some moves in the upcoming weeks to prove they are trying to get better as frustration is high.

Cruz would be a pretty big splash from a team that is not known for doing just that in recent memory, but let's examine Cruz's numbers and whether or not he is a legitimate answer to some of the Orioles problems.

Nelson, currently 33 years old, has posted a career .268 average with 157 home runs, 171 doubles, 489 RBI and a .823 OPS. Of those specific numbers, the .823 OPS is the most impressive and he obviously has some power, not just with home runs, but doubles as well.

For a real glance at his true numbers, you must start with the 2009 season as he never played more than 100 games in any year prior to '09. Over the last five seasons he has hit at least 22 home runs every year and produced 76 or more RBI in each of the last five years. In addition, he has posted an OPS of .821 or higher in four of the last five seasons.

There is no denying his power and that would certainly be a nice addition to the middle of the order for the Orioles, but there are some concerns with him.

For starters, the big elephant in the room of course is the 50 game suspension he served this season due to being linked to the Biogenesis scandal. He was on pace for a pretty monster year in 2013 before the suspension as he ended up hitting .266 with 27 home runs, and 76 RBI in just 109 games played and he was named an All Star this season as well.

'Nelson Cruz' photo (c) 2009, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Secondly, one of the biggest issues for the Orioles is on base percentage, and although he has good power numbers, Cruz is not a guy who boasts a high OBP like other guys on the market. Cruz has just a .327 career on base percentage, and has stuck out 100 or more times in four of the last five seasons. Baltimore has plenty of guys like that, so it would be a question of whether or not the added power is worth not greatly improving their team on base percentage.

Another issue with Cruz, and not as routinely brought up as it should be is the fact that he is a below average outfielder and he has only played 59 career games in left field and has a .976 fielding percentage in those games.

Lastly, and most important when you are talking about the Orioles, is the money factor. CBS Sports Jon Heyman reported earlier this offseason that Cruz is searching for a four year, $75 million contract, which would come out to an average of $18.75 million per year. When was the last time you saw the Orioles dish out a contract like that? Now we don't believe he will get that much and a three year deal is more likely, but either way you put it, he seems to be out of the Orioles price range. Let's not forget that Cruz would also cost a draft pick since he was offered a qualifying offer by the Texas Rangers, which he declined.

Now we have heard that the Orioles want to reallocate the $10 million they are going to save by trading Johnson to the A's, but even with the $10 million it appears that Baltimore would have to add at least seven more to get Cruz's attention.


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Tags: Baltimore, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Jim Johnson, MLB, Nelson Cruz

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