Though the Orioles have multiple fringe options on their roster for left field, including the oft-injured Nolan Reimold, they have not yet ruled out adding another, like Shin-Soo Choo or Nelson Cruz, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
#orioles, looking for LF, haven't ruled out cruz or choo. Also need DH, closer, wouldn't mind a SP. budget not unlimited tho— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 8, 2013
There are a lot of different ways to say that a team is interested in a player without having any realistic chance or even desire to sign a particular player. One of these is "haven't ruled out". The Orioles may not have ruled out Choo and Cruz, but Choo and Cruz might well have ruled out the Orioles.
In any case, weeks of stories about the Orioles supposed interest in retaining Scott Feldman and Nate McLouth culminated in their signing with other teams, with news then coming out that the Orioles never even made an offer. Very interested.
Both Choo and Cruz would cost the Orioles their first-round draft pick to sign, currently slated at #17 overall. Choo, who will turn 32 next July, is coming off of a season with Cincinnati where he batted .285/.423/.462 in 154 games. His on-base percentage is influenced by 26 hit-by-pitches. Even so, Choo walked 112 times. That's more walks than Adam Jones has in the past four seasons combined. Choo has never had a season with below a 10% walk rate in his career.
At the outset of the off-season, MLB Trade Rumors projected Choo would receive a six-year, $100 million contract. That would cover him through his age 36 season. However, in the wake of the Jacoby Ellsbury contract, that estimate could be low, with a team in the Choo market telling Joel Sherman of the New York Post that it expected Choo's contract to be between Jayson Werth ($126M) and Ellsbury ($153M). Both of those are seven-year contracts.
Defensively, Choo was worth -12 runs in the outfield in 2012 and -17 runs in 2013. He was playing out of position in center field for the Reds this past season. The on-base percentage is appealing, as is a respectable power stroke, but there's always a question of signing a player already on the wrong side of 30 to such a long deal.
Cruz has been rumored to be seeking a $75 million deal. I am also seeking a $75 million deal. The 33-year-old outfielder is fresh off a 50-game suspension in connection with the Biogenesis investigation. In the 109 games he played before being suspended, he batted .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs. That's just about in line with the numbers he's accumulated over a nine-year career. How much are his skills worth, and how quickly will they tail off? Those are questions the Orioles would have to answer.
MLBTR projects Cruz will receive three years and $39 million. A right-handed batter, he's hit both righties and lefties well in his career. Cruz has a .806 career OPS against right-handers with a .869 OPS against lefties. That's a sharp contrast with Choo, who had only a .612 OPS against lefties this past season and has a .680 mark in his career.
Whether the Orioles would bid enough to sign either player, who knows. The upcoming Winter Meetings should make more clear where the O's intend to go to fill any of the holes in the team.