With first round draft pick gone, Orioles should sign Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles have already lost pick #17 in the next draft, so they should go all in and sacrifice their second-round pick for a designated hitter.

There is an argument to be made over if it was worth it for the Orioles to sacrifice their #17 pick in the upcoming amateur draft so sign any free agent on the market this offseason. But regardless of which side of the argument you'd be on, it happened. As soon as the Ubaldo Jimenez contract is finalized, that pick will be gone and it's not coming back. Spilled milk, etc.

So now the Orioles won't make a pick in the draft until #55, midway through the second round. Now that the Orioles have made the decision to jump in and sacrifice their first-round pick, should they go ahead and sign another player that would cost them a draft pick? I say yes. I say let's do it.

Once Jimenez is off the market, there will be four players remaining who declined their qualifying offer and will cost the signing team a draft pick. Ervin Santana is obviously not a match for the team, so that leaves designated hitter Kendrys Morales, "outfielder"/DH Nelson Cruz, and shortstop Stephen Drew. Given that that Orioles already have two of the best shortstops in the American League on their team, Drew doesn't fit. That just leaves Morales and Cruz, both of whom have been linked to the Orioles in multiple off season rumors.

For better or worse, the Orioles have made decisions on the state of the starting rotation (Jimenez), second base (Ryan Flaherty), and left field (David Lough). They are currently looking at some combination of Henry Urrutia, Nolan Reimold, and Delmon Young to fill the DH spot, and either Cruz or Morales would offer a better option to those three, despite the hopes we may have for the first two (I doubt anyone cares much for Delmon Young).

All things being equal, I would prefer Morales over Cruz. They offer similar offensive tools, but Morales is three years younger than Cruz. Cruz has more power potential, but Morales has good power and also tends to get on base more. Cruz is also coming off of a 50-game suspension for PED use. Ultimately they'll provide a similar level of value at the plate.

Here are their numbers over their last four seasons played, with career numbers at the bottom:

Morales
Year Age Tm G PA AB 2B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2009 26 LAA 152 622 566 43 34 46 117 .306 .355 .569 .924 139
2010 27 LAA 51 211 193 5 11 12 31 .290 .346 .487 .833 129
2012 29 LAA 134 522 484 26 22 31 116 .273 .320 .467 .787 119
2013 30 SEA 156 657 602 34 23 49 114 .277 .336 .449 .785 123
7 Yrs 620 2419 2222 130 102 165 434 .280 .333 .480 .813 120
Cruz
Year Age Tm G PA 2B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2010 29 TEX 108 445 31 22 38 81 .318 .374 .576 .950 146
2011 30 TEX 124 513 28 29 33 116 .263 .312 .509 .821 113
2012 31 TEX 159 642 45 24 48 140 .260 .319 .460 .779 104
2013 32 TEX 109 456 18 27 35 109 .266 .327 .506 .833 123
9 Yrs 804 3182 171 157 250 711 .268 .327 .495 .823 114
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/18/2014.


Morales missed much of 2010 and all of 2011 with a broken leg, and Cruz has missed time with injury in addition to the suspension in 2013.  Morales has a total offensive WAR of 10.1 in his last four seasons played, Cruz has 9.9.

While I prefer Morales, ultimately the one that makes the most sense is whichever is willing to sign the shortest deal. Both went into the offseason looking for multi-year deals, but they must be tempering their expectations at this point.

For what it's worth, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Orioles prefer Cruz over Morales. If that's true, it could be because he might be cheaper, or it could be because he is somewhat capable of playing the outfield (though I wouldn't want to see it). Morales is going to be a DH-only.

So what do you think? Do you agree with me that the Orioles should let go of their second-round pick in an effort to bolster their offense? What's the most money/years you think is fair for Cruz or Morales?

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