Nelson Cruz reportedly agrees to 4-year, $57M deal
General manager Jack Zduriencik made it clear from Day One this offseason that the Mariners top priority was a big right-handed bat to put behind Robinson Cano in Seattle’s lineup and the club appears to have filled that need with a reported agreement with free agent slugger Nelson Cruz.
Multiple news sources have confirmed an initial report by Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that the 34-year-old Cruz has agreed to a four-year, $57 million contract. The Mariners have not confirmed the deal, which would need to be finalized with a physical exam and official signing.
The Mariners have been interested in Cruz for the past two years, engaging in talks last offseason that never came to fruition before the Dominican native signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles late in Spring Training. Cruz went on to lead the American League with 40 home runs while putting up a .271/.333/.525 slash line with 108 RBIs.
The Mariners sorely need some right-handed balance to their lineup and Cruz would slot in between left-handers Cano and Kyle Seager, who is expected to finalize a seven-year, $100 million extension of his own this week.
Cruz played 89 games at designated hitter and 70 in the outfield last season for the Orioles. Seattle’s designated hitters had the worst production in the AL last season with Corey Hart and Kendrys Morales getting most of the at-bats.
Cruz has spent eight of his 10 Major League seasons in the AL West with the Rangers and is a career .268 hitter who has averaged 29 home runs a season over the past six years.
Cruz also had a strong postseason for the Orioles last year, hitting .357 with two home runs and eight RBIs in seven games. The Orioles wanted to retain the player who was voted the “Most Valuable Oriole” by the Baltimore chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but apparently wereunwilling to go beyond a three-year offer.
The Orioles extended a qualifying offer to Cruz, so Seattle will lose its first-round Draft pick, which currently is the 21st selection.
The Mariners finished 87-75 in 2014, coming one win shy of tying for a Wild Card berth, with a club that led the AL in ERA, but was tied for 11th in runs and last in the league in OPS.