Cruz, 33, is coming off a season in which he served a 50-game suspension for violation of baseball’s drug policy for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. He hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers and 76 RBI last season in 109 games for the Texas Rangers.
Over the past week, the Orioles bolstered their starting rotation by signing right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million deal, giving them a much-needed front-line starter with a history of durability.
With Cruz, Baltimore has a big middle-of-the order bat to complement a lineup that led the majors with 212 homers last season.
Executive Vice President Dan Duquette would not confirm that a deal has been reached with Cruz, saying only that that there’s still “some work to be done” before the Orioles succeed in their winter-long bid for an established hitter.
Manager Buck Showalter also wouldn’t comment on any pending deal with Cruz, who has averaged just more than 26 homers a season over the past five years.
The past week has been a frenzy of activity, especially after a sleepy offseason in which the Orioles largely avoided testing the free-agent waters, traded closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for salary relief and endured a setback when their two-year, $15 million deal with closer Grant Balfour fell through following concerns over his physical.
But with the additions of Cruz, Jimenez and South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon, who signed a three-year, $5.575 million deal, all of that seems far in the past.
Cruz was slated to arrive in Sarasota on Saturday night from the Dominican Republic to take his club physical on either Sunday or Monday morning.
In signing Cruz, the Orioles would lose their second-round draft pick this season, No. 55 overall, through the qualifying-offer compensation process. They already forfeited their first-round pick, No. 17 overall, in signing Jimenez this week.
Cruz had been the Rangers’ primary starting right fielder over the past five seasons, but also has played left field. He likely would see most of his at-bats as a designated hitter but also could split time in left field with incumbent starter Nolan Reimold and David Lough.
His arrival likely will take at-bats away from Reimold, Steve Pearce and Delmon Young.
Orioles Notes: Baltimore is slated to have two intrasquad games next week, an eight-inning game Wednesday and a four-inning game Thursday. . . . Pitchers threw live batting practice to hitters Saturday for the first time. Showalter said hitters were impressed with both right-hander Kevin Gausman and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. . . . The team will have its annual spring players’ union meeting, which will be directed by new Major League Baseball Players Association Tony Clark, on Sunday. . . . Outfielder Tyler Colvin, who had agreed to a deal with the Orioles before it fell through amid concerns over his physical, signed a minor league deal with San Francisco.
— Baltimore Sun