With Monday’s deadline upon them, the Orioles made a qualifying offer to free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz hours before other teams are free to negotiate with the slugger.
The move was expected even though the 34-year-old will decline the $15.3 million offer that now allows the Orioles to receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round should Cruz sign with another club. The veteran is reportedly seeking a four- or five-year contract while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would prefer signing him to a shorter deal since he’ll turn 35 next season.
Cruz officially has until Nov. 10 to decide whether to accept the qualifying offer.
The Orioles signed Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal last spring after he rejected a $14.1 million qualifying offer to remain with the Texas Rangers last winter. The draft-pick caveat cooled the market for the right-handed hitter considerably, but the Orioles felt inclined to sign him after they had already surrendered their first-round pick to sign free-agent starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
Cruz viewed the 2014 season as a platform to boost his value, and that’s exactly what he did by hitting 40 home runs to lead the majors while also setting a career high with 108 runs batted in. The Orioles have negotiated with Cruz’s agent, Diego Bentz, but the sides are reportedly far apart in discussions.
Baltimore declined to make a qualifying offer to right fielder Nick Markakis as the sides continue to work on a multi-year extension.
The five-day window clubs had to negotiate with their own free agents concludes at midnight on Tuesday morning. From that point, free agents may negotiate with any of the 30 major league clubs.