When Nelson Cruz came to the Orioles, it was his last resort move from a free agency market that had rejected his demands for a multi-year contract. That signing has worked out better than Orioles fans could have hoped up to this point. Now, if CBS Sports' Jon Heyman is to be believed, there is mutual interest between the O's and Cruz about extending the contract for more years.
It's not very surprising to see why Cruz might want to stick around in Baltimore. One reason is that he might well go through the same free agency struggle this offseason, having the price of a draft pick hung around his neck as he searches for a new prospective team. That's a negative reason to avoid free agency. There are positive ones too: The Orioles are a good team and he's been a big part of that. He seems to be popular with fans and teammates alike. Cruz could do a lot worse for himself than here.
Similarly, it's not much of a stretch to guess why the Orioles would have interest in retaining his services for longer. Coming into 2014, there were questions about how Cruz would come back from his 50-game Biogenesis suspension, whether a lack of whatever benefit he may have gotten from them combined with his advancing age would rob him of the tools that had made him a successful player up until then. With a career-high 34 home runs as part of a .256/.324/.510 batting line, he has answered those questions.
Adding more years onto Cruz's contract would still represent something of a risk, because he's a 34-year-old outfielder with limited range. While the power has undoubtedly remained up until now, as soon as that goes, there won't be much else to recommend him as a player. He's proven that the Biogenesis suspension won't affect him as a player, but Father Time still catches up to us all, sometimes by a player becoming more injury-prone, sometimes by the slowing of reflexes and weakening of muscles just making him not as good of a player.
The age question probably had as much to do with teams being reluctant to offer him a multi-year deal last offseason as anything else. He was seeking a four year deal. Year one might have been fine, but what about years three and four? The Orioles received a gift by getting one year of Cruz, because there were fewer doubts about that one year. Next year he'll turn 35 on July 1 and he won't be getting any younger. His performance this season makes a similar performance in 2015 seem a bit more likely, but what about two years or three years from now?
There are worse people to bet on than Cruz. He has slugged over .500 in five of the past six seasons and he's hit at least 22 home runs in all six of those seasons. Without any potential years or dollars being thrown around, it's hard to guess at what he might cost. My gut reaction is that something like an extra two years and $32 million is something the Orioles wouldn't regret. The power threat of Cruz makes a good team even better, especially if he can be the DH more than the left fielder.
There's also always the possibility that Cruz might just accept the qualifying offer of about $15 million for 2015 rather than roll the dice on free agency again, even if he and the Orioles don't work out an extension deal. That's not a bad deal for him in the sense that he gets $15 million and it's not bad for the Orioles because they don't have to commit more than one year for an aging power hitter. It's also one less hole for the Orioles to fill this offseason.
As with most baseball rumors, this one could just turn out to be a bunch of smoke blowing in the wind. It has the ring of something that could make sense for both sides, which doesn't mean it will happen, but it does make it more likely that it could.