The dormant Orioles have suddenly woken up now that spring training is underway. Perhaps the front office thought they got the offseason off as well? In any case, having signed Ubaldo Jimenez, it looks like the Orioles are moving towards doing something else, with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reporting that the O's are still in the game for both Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz:
Sources: #Orioles in talks with both Morales and Cruz. Deal with one or other could happen soon.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 21, 2014
This follows a report earlier Friday from The Baltimore Sun that indicated talks have been "intensifying" with Morales. Is it good if talks are intensifying? It probably is, although as far as that goes, intensifying forward firepower did not stop the out-of-control A-Wing from obliterating the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor in the Battle of Endor. Look, I've written a million rumors posts that amounted to nothing, so please just give me that one, okay.
Morales and Cruz are both qualifying offer free agents, meaning they would cost the O's their next highest draft pick. At this point, that's their second-round pick, #55 overall. That would mean their first pick of the draft would not come until the third round, at #91 overall.
The Sun reported that a possible deal with Morales could be for two years with an opt-out available for Morales after only one year. If Morales had any kind of productive season, it would probably amount to just a one-year deal and Morales could opt out and hit the free agent market again without having to have the draft pick stigma that seems to have significantly limited his options this offseason.
This sort of thing was rumored about another Scott Boras client who is twisting in the winds of free agency as well, former Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew. Of course, if either one gets the two-year deal with the opt-out and they aren't very good, they get to stick around and get paid for another year either way.
Given that Morales would cost the Orioles to surrender a pick, would it be a better option to be sure to have him on the team for multiple years? That would mean the cost of the lost draft pick is spread out by having benefit to the team in more than one season, assuming Morales is actually good and benefits the team in two years. The idea of having an expenditure on Morales for only one year is probably OK to the O's as well. That's less money tied up into the future as they try to hold on to players like Chris Davis and Manny Machado.
There has not been any kind of dollar amount attached to either Morales or Cruz talks at this point, but for each it looks like they will be settling for much less than they were reportedly seeking initially. For Morales in particular, it doesn't seem like any contract he's likely to get at this point would be outrageous, as long as he doesn't totally suck.
Morales batted .277/.336/.449 in 156 games for Seattle in 2013, and as a switch-hitter, he does not have pronounced platoon splits. There's value to the Orioles in having him just to keep them from needing some kind of platoon designated hitter situation.
Then there's the possibility that they end up with the 33-year-old Cruz, who is coming off a 50-game suspension due to the Biogenesis investigation. Cruz did not have a bad 2013, batting .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs in 106 games. That would not look bad as long as he never finds himself playing defense. There's also the question of when age will catch up to him, or whether the lack of whatever he may have taken that led to the Biogenesis suspension will negatively affect his performance.
The O's haven't done much all offseason, but now that they've woken up, it seems like they're determined to do some more. At least they aren't trying to sign an overpriced reliever.