With their wish list of free agent sluggers down to Jose Cruz Jr. or nobody, the Baltimore Orioles have focused their attention on the Toronto Blue Jays' castoff, while also exploring trade possibilities with added urgency.
The Orioles were waiting last night to hear back from Cruz's agent with an answer concerning the team's offer of a one-year contract believed to be worth close to $2 million.
"We don't want to sit around, make an offer and let them shop it around," said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie. "We know what we want to do, and if [Cruz] doesn't take it, we'll move on."
The Orioles, seeking to add power to a lineup that has finished last in the American League in batting average in each of the last two seasons, have lost out on all their major offseason targets, most recently catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who signed a one-year deal with the Florida Marlins on Wednesday.
Cruz, 28, made $3.95 million last season for Toronto, but hit only .245 with 18 homers and 70 RBI during an injury-plagued campaign. He was due a large raise in 2003, but the Blue Jays declined to offer him arbitration, making him a free agent.
While Cruz remains the last appealing free agent hitter on the market, Beattie said the Orioles have numerous trade possibilities, but no deals are imminent.
Many teams are trying unsuccessfully to dump high-priced contracts this winter. The Orioles were rumored to be in talks with the New York Mets concerning outfielder Jeromy Burnitz. However, Burnitz will make $11 million next season, making it unlikely the Orioles would take him unless they were able to get out from under a similar amount of payroll.