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Nelson Cruz Rumors
The Rays are nearing an agreement with St. Peterburg mayor Rick Kriseman that will grant the team permission to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County, report Stephen Nohlgren and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times. Kriseman would like to finalize an agreement within the next month and “definitely before Christmas” so he can present the plan to City Council. If the Rays do leave for a new Hillsborough stadium, the city of St. Petersburg would be entitled to monetary compensation, as the Rays’ current lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette was named Major League Baseball Executive of the Year by The Sporting News, and he spoke with MLB.com’s Paul Hagen about the honor. Duquette, who narrowly edged out Dayton Moore of the Royals, said his focus from day one has been improving the club’s pitching staff. He also addressed the success he’s had in finding value from unheralded minor league signings, and how that success makes them an attractive destination: “…when players sign with us, whether it’s Triple-A or the big leagues, they know they’re going to get an opportunity.”
- Duquette tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he has enough financial flexibility to sign both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz (Twitter links). He plans to meet with Cruz’s new agent, Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, at the GM Meetings, and the book is not closed on Markakis returning even though he’s meeting with other clubs.
- The Red Sox are receiving a lot of interest in minor league shortstop Deven Marrero, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (Twitter link). The 24-year-old was the club’s first-round pick back in 2012 and has an excellent defensive reputation, though he batted just .258/.327/.372 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. The Mets, of course, are one team known to be looking high and low for a shortstop.
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal spoke with Sox GM Ben Cherington about interest in Marrero, and while he noted that there has indeed been interest, Cherington said it hasn’t been any greater than the interest he’s received in the past. Marrero has drawn steady interest over the years, according to Cherington. As MacPherson notes, however, Marrero is posting particularly strong numbers in the Arizona Fall League this year.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed the possibility of the Red Sox acquiring Cole Hamels with Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, and came away with the belief that the team has a shot, even though the Sox are on Hamels’ no-trade list. Hamels doesn’t have any issue with Boston, writes Cafardo, though he’d likely use the no-trade clause as leverage to get his 2019 option picked up in advance, as Ken Rosenthal noted yesterday. The Phillies have scouted Boston’s system extensively and like many of their players.
- Cafardo also notes that the Sox are receiving quite a bit of interest in Yoenis Cespedes. Boston is “desperately” trying to keep an outfield spot open for Mookie Betts, making a trade of Cespedes possible.
- The Boston Herald’s John Tomase spoke with Cherington, who stopped short of labeling any of his prospects untouchable, but he made it clear that those who contributed in 2014 (e.g. Betts) are extremely unlikely to be moved, Tomase adds (Twitter link).
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.
Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
- Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
- The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
- Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
- Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
- The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.
Last winter, Nelson Cruz turned down a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers only to find that the market wasn’t anywhere close to what he had hoped. The Orioles wound up inking him to a one-year, $8MM deal which proved to be a brilliant signing. This time around, he shouldn’t have any trouble landing a multi-year deal.
In 2014, Cruz turned in a .271/.333/.525 slash line with 40 homers on the way to his third career All-Star selection. Cruz’s 40 dingers weren’t just a career-high, it was the highest home run total of anyone in the majors in 2014. Cruz’s .525 slugging percentage was good for eighth in the majors, putting him above the likes of Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, and David Ortiz. In a season where the Orioles got just 26 games out of Matt Wieters and lost Manny Machado for half the year, Cruz stepped up in a major way and helped propel them to first place in the American League East.
The advanced metrics were also very fond of Cruz’s 2014 performance. His 137 wRC+ put him in the upper echelon of sluggers. Meanwhile, Cruz’s .288 BABIP was actually a bit lower than his career average and his strikeout rate dipped, so there’s reason to believe he could bump his batting average a bit going forward. Cruz ranked seventh in MLB and first among this offseason’s free agent with a .254 ISO in 2014.
His 2014 may have been a pleasant surprise, but it didn’t come out of the blue. Cruz has a solid track record of quality offensive performance, dating back to his breakout 2009 season with the Rangers. In those six years, Cruz owns a .271/.332/.514 batting line with about 29 homers per season and an OPS+ of 123, showing that he was still well above average even when factoring in the hitter-friendly confines of Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Cruz has proven to be an elite hitter against left-handers with a career .314/.407/.569 while his .258/.310/.513 slash line against righties is nothing to sneeze at either.
Teams will also find his October body of work attractive, and with good reason. With his two home runs in the ALDS, Cruz leapfrogged some legendary names to climb up the all-time postseason home run ladder. With homers 15 and 16 against the Tigers, Cruz tied Carlos Beltran for ninth all-time. As Mark Saxon of ESPN.com noted, that vaulted him ahead of Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Bench, Barry Bonds, Joe DiMaggio, Mark McGwire, and, yes, Babe Ruth. Cruz got there in just 37 career postseason games, less than all of the other players listed.
Unsurprisingly, the Orioles made a qualifying offer to Cruz, meaning that there will be draft pick compensation attached to signing him. In his last trip through free agency, the QO hurt his market (though his asking price was probably more to blame), leading to his discounted deal with Baltimore. Of course, the circumstances were different. For starters, Cruz was reportedly seeking as much as $75MM at the outset of free agency, unrealistic numbers that led to him settling in January. His value was also hurt by the tarnish of the Biogenesis scandal and the resulting 50-game suspension he served in 2013.
For all of his positives at the plate, there isn’t much that can be said for his agility or base running at this stage of his career. In 2014, Cruz put up a career-worst BsR of -3.3, putting him somewhere between “below average” and “poor” on the basepaths.
While Cruz graded well in a small sample this year (he had a UZR/150 of 3.8 with 3 defensive runs saved), he’s certainly not valued for his glove. He spent more of his time in the DH role, which he might be better suited for going forward. A team signing Cruz will be getting him for his mid-to-late 30s (he’ll start next year at 34 and turn 35 on July 1) and his agility in the field doesn’t figure to improve from here, to say the least.
Cruz’s WAR of 3.9 from this past season was his highest in years, a showing that was only bested by his 2010 season with the Rangers. In his last three seasons, his value has been teetering on that of a good player, but not necessarily a great one (although his suspension in 2013 did deflate that number).
On the whole, his age figures to dampen his value. While teams are usually looking to pay for prime years at the top of the market, Cruz’s remaining years could be a drop off from what we’ve seen over the last few.
As Steve Adams noted in his profile of Cruz last winter, he’s an accomplished two-sport athlete who played for the Dominican Republic Junior National Team in his younger days. His father also played professional baseball in the DR, so that sort of thing runs in the family. Cruz and his wife have two children.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette had great things to say about Cruz as a locker room presence earlier this month. “You can tell just by watching him, he’s the leader of the ballclub,” said Duquette, according to Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun. Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun wrote that Cruz created a comfort zone for the club’s younger latino players, like second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Adam Jones spoke glowingly about Cruz’s impact on the team.
Cruz changed agents in early October, joining Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports.
As mentioned Encina’s piece, Duquette is realistic about his chances of keeping Cruz beyond this season. “He came here to have a platform year to get himself re-established to get him a long-term deal and that’s something we will have to consider,” Duquette said.
The Mariners probably regret passing on Cruz last offseason and they could try and make up for that mistake this time. They’re in need of a quality DH and are expected to chase the likes of Cruz and Victor Martinez. A reunion with the Rangers could be a possibility, but they previously balked at the idea of a three-year deal and it may not be any more palatable to them now. Cruz has been linked to the Yankees, though there isn’t a clear fit at this time with Beltran expected to return to right field. Giving Cruz DH time could be tough as well with Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira likely needing at-bats there. The Tigers, Royals, and Twins are also among the AL teams with potential interest. National League teams can and will certainly show interest, but it remains to be seen how far they will go given the concerns about his defense.
Last season, Curtis Granderson signed a four-year, $60MM deal with the Mets, despite coming off of a season in which he missed 100 games. Cruz, meanwhile, played 159 games and belted 40 homers in his walk year. While there are many differences between the two players, including age (Granderson was 32 last winter, Cruz is 34), Cruz’s reps probably believe that they can match the years and top the total value of Granderson’s contract.
Complicating matters, of course, will be the qualifying offer and the same PED suspension that depressed his market value last winter. As Steve Adams wrote earlier this month about Melky Cabrera, no player with those two factors working against them has ever been able to cash in big in free agency.
Steve projected that Cabrera would land a five-year, $66.25MM and rightly noted that Cabrera is four years younger and has more defensive value. Still, Cruz has power on his side and that is at a major premium around the game. His age will preclude him from the same length on the contract but he can still get a very healthy payday for himself on a slightly shorter deal. I predict that Cruz will ultimately best Granderson’s deal from last winter with a four-year, $70MM deal.
Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images.
Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:
- Max Scherzer (Tigers)
- Victor Martinez (Tigers)
- David Robertson (Yankees)
- Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays)
- James Shields (Royals)
- Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers)
- Pablo Sandoval (Giants)
- Nelson Cruz (Orioles)
- Russell Martin (Pirates)
- Francisco Liriano (Pirates)
- Michael Cuddyer (Rockies)
- Ervin Santana (Braves)
Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.
There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.
The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.
The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).
While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.
The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.
Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).
The Orioles announced that they have made a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to Nelson Cruz and also re-instated Manny Machado and Matt Wieters from the 60-day disabled list, bringing the team’s 40-man roster to 33. At this point, it appears that Nick Markakis will not be the recipient of a QO, which should help his stock on the free agent market. Of course, he’s also said to be discussing a four-year deal to remain in Baltimore.
Cruz signed a one-year, $8MM contract with the Orioles last winter after seeking as much as $75MM+ despite battling the negative impact of both a QO and a season-ending PED suspension. His 2014 performance indicated that teams needn’t be overly concerned with his power production following the suspension, however, as he hit .271/.333/.525 with Major League leading 40 home runs (plus two more in the postseason).
Cruz is expected to turn down the offer, of course, on the heels of that excellent season in hopes of finding the multi-year deal he wasn’t able to secure last winter. If he signs elsewhere, the O’s will get a comp pick at the end of next year’s first round, and the signing club will forfeit its top unprotected draft pick.
MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker can be used to monitor all players who received a qualifying offer over the next week until the deadline for them to make their decisions, which will be 5pm ET next Monday.
The Indians should be poised to contend for the AL Central title next year because the Tigers and Royals are going to take a hit in free agency, opines Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group in the latest edition of his “Hey, Hoynsie” column. Free agency won’t damage the White Sox, Hoynes adds, but they are in need of pitching to complement their power while the Twins are still putting together the pieces after four consecutive seasons of at least 92 losses.
Here’s more on the Indians from Hoynes:
- Manager Terry Francona had clauses inserted into his contract when he was hired by the Indians allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired. Would Francona ever follow Joe Maddon’s lead? Hoynes notes Andrew Friedman left the Rays voluntarily and isn’t sure whether such a departure by either Shapiro or Antonetti would trigger Francona’s opt-out.
- The Indians will not be bidding on the premier bats available in free agency (e.g. Pablo Sandoval (#5 on MLBTR’s 2014-2015 Top 50 Free Agents list), Victor Martinez (#6), Russell Martin (#8), and Nelson Cruz (#9), according to Hoynes, who sees the club setting their sights on the likes of Michael Morse (#28) and Ryan Ludwick (unranked) once other moves are made.
- Jose Ramirez will be the Indians’ 2015 Opening Day shortstop, Francisco Lindor is probably ticketed for Triple-A, and Zach Walters, acquired in the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, will have to make the team as a bench player.
- The Indians are not in the position of needing to trade their core players, so Hoynes would be surprised if Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, or Michael Brantley are dealt this winter.
The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link). Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.” Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.
Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Victor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
- Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes. “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.” MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
- A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players. Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
- With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats. Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
- Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.
Here are some of the highlights from the latest Sunday notes column by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe…
- The White Sox will have “a lot of interest” in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki, Cafardo predicts.
- David Ross was told by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington earlier this week that the club “wanted to see how the roster shook out before making a commitment to” bring back the veteran catcher. Cafardo speculates that Cherington could be keeping his options open in regards to the team’s need for a left-handed hitting bat; if one can’t be found at another position, the Sox could look to add one at catcher.
- Now that Joe Maddon is managing the Cubs, Cafardo wonders if Andrew Friedman will regret sticking with Don Mattingly in Los Angeles and not making a move to bring Maddon to the Dodgers. “I think it will be a case of, ‘Why didn’t I do what the Cubs did?’ ” a baseball executive tells Cafardo. “Joe Maddon seems to be the hot manager out there and guys like that aren’t available very often. When Maddon is out there you don’t need a long, drawn-out managerial search. If you can afford him, you hire him.”
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez has been mentioned as a prime candidate to become the team’s next manager, and will surely be on the team’s list of interview candidates. That said, “the feeling is that if…[Martinez] was going to get the job, he would have gotten it by now,” Cafardo writes.
- Nelson Cruz‘s free agency “will test the Orioles‘ commitment to winning.” In Cafardo’s opinion, the team has “no excuses” for not re-signing such a key part of their lineup, especially with extra revenues coming in from TV and increased attendance.
Ten years ago today, Curt Schilling pitched the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory over the Yankees in Game Six of the ALCS in what has become known as “the bloody sock” game. A retrospective by MLB.com’s Ian Browne chronicles Schilling’s performance with a torn tendon sheath in his ankle and the ingenuity of the Red Sox’s medical team suturing Schilling’s ankle tendon to his skin. Before making the decision to perform the procedure on Schilling, Dr. Bill Morgan first tried it on a cadaver to see if it worked. It did and Schilling and the Red Sox went on to make baseball history by becoming the first team to win a playoff series after facing a 3-0 deficit and winning the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years.
Flash forward a decade and here’s the latest from the AL East:
- The Orioles need to take advantage of Nelson Cruz‘s warm feelings for the organization while they last and make their best offer to him early, opines the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. The Orioles, Schmuck adds, would like that offer to be a two-year deal with an option worth a guaranteed $30MM.
- Cruz is one of the top ten moves GM Dan Duquette made over the past two years to make the Orioles the AL East champions, writes CSNBaltimore’s Rich Dubroff.
- Despite Andrew Friedman’s departure, the decisions and evaluations that went into constructing the 2014 Rays will be the same decisions and evaluations that go into retooling the team for 2015, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. The operations department will remain the same, but with Matt Silverman at the helm and top assistants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander sharing the mantle of VP of baseball ops.
- The Rays are expected to make a series of transactions over the next few weeks to clear 40-man roster space and protect several rising prospects, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Catcher Justin O’Conner, outfielder Mikie Mahtook, and left-hander Adam Liberatore are among those who will be shielded from the Rule 5 draft.
- Defense and leadership are the calling cards the Red Sox hope will make catcher Christian Vazquez their long-term solution behind the plate, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber. The Red Sox feel his offense will develop as future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez compares Vazquez to the Cardinals‘ Yadier Molina and a NL talent evaluator likens the 24-year-old to the Phillies‘ Carlos Ruiz.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette says the team plans to increase its payroll next season, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Duquette notes that he still needs to meet with team ownership to discuss the payroll, but he expresses confidence that it will rise.
“The important thing for our fans to know is that we’ve increased our payroll over the last couple years,” says Duquette. “I expect that we’ll be able to increase our payroll because the fans have responded to our team the last couple of years.”
The Orioles will have to deal with arbitration raises for a number of key players, as well as options for Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day. They are likely to buy out their end of Nick Markakis‘ $17MM mutual option, but they’d like to retain him, Encina writes.
Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Delmon Young will be free agents. The Orioles will likely extend Cruz a qualifying offer, and Cruz has said he would like to stay in Baltimore, but Duquette cautions that it will be tricky to keep him. “You can tell just by watching him, he’s the leader of the ballclub,” says Duquette. “Having said that, he came here to have a platform year to get himself re-established to get him a long-term deal and that’s something we will have to consider.”
As Encina points out, the Orioles had an Opening Day payroll of over $107MM last year, then increased it in-season by adding Miller, Alejandro De Aza, Nick Hundley (whose 2015 option they’ll likely decline) and others. Keeping most of their existing talent (including Markakis) will likely force them to go higher than that $107MM figure. They’ve already agreed to an extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy that will pay him $11.5MM in 2015, and Adam Jones and Ubaldo Jimenez will make even more. Chris Davis, who made $10.35MM in 2014, will top the Orioles’ long list of arbitration-eligible players, which also includes Matt Wieters, Bud Norris, Steve Pearce, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Zach Britton and De Aza.