One year is all that the Orioles will get out of 2014 home run champion Nelson Cruz. Though they were in the market for him to return on a three-year deal, when he was offered a fourth year by the Seattle Mariners, they did not match that contract despite being told that he had a four-year, $58 million deal in hand from another team. Now the debate can begin over whether or not they should have kept him. The first to break the news was a reporter in the Dominican, Yancen Pujols.
The Orioles will receive a compensatory draft pick for losing Cruz, since they extended him a qualifying offer. That pick will slot in at the end of the compensatory round. In addition, the Mariners will lose their first-round pick, moving the Orioles' first overall pick up a slot. That's your silver lining.
On the downside, the Orioles will kick off 2015 without the services of a DH (slash-notional-left-fielder) who put up a 140 OPS+ and paced MLB with 40 home runs. That's tough production to replace, even with the optimistic hope of full seasons from Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado.
It had been rumored all offseason long that Cruz would be on the hunt for a four-year offer, and also that the Orioles wouldn't be making one. Both things appear to have come true. And while the loss of Cruz's bat will probably sting the 2015 Orioles, the lack of a 38-year-old Cruz on the books in 2018 probably isn't a bad thing for the club.
So, for most Orioles fans, this is probably a "So long and thanks for all the homers" kind of moment. Cruz landed with the Orioles as an afterthought, after the combination of a draft pick and a steroid suspension attached to his name last offseason proved too much for most teams. So Cruz took a one-year value-building deal, and man, did he build some value. He hit like a man with things to prove, and the playoff-bound 2014 Orioles were the beneficiaries. Cruz looked pretty happy here the whole season, too, but happiness won't fund your retirement.
Nelson Cruz will probably go down as one of the best one-season-only Orioles of all time, if not the best, and I'm sure most Orioles fans can wish him the best of luck in Seattle and be glad that he had his banner year in Baltimore in 2014.