Aug 9, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) is congratulated by Adam Jones (10) after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Baltimore Orioles Extend Nelson Cruz?

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The word on the street today according to John Heyman of CBS Sports is that there have been discussions between Nelson Cruz and the Baltimore Orioles about an extension.

The question is, “Should the Baltimore Orioles extend Nelson Cruz?”

The question in return is, “What will the price be to extend him?”

So, to be able to discuss the possibilities, let’s assume that the Orioles can sign Cruz at a reasonable price within the O’s budget.

Perhaps the next question that might rise is, “Why would Nelson Cruz return to the Orioles after the season he has had, since, it would seem to be true that he could get a larger contract on the free agent market?”

Remember junior year in high school … how you were sure you would get one of the hot cheerleaders to go to the prom with you; but before you were able to arrange it, all of them had another date? Instead, you ended up with the shy girl at the back of the class who was president of the National Honor Society … but then you found out she was really pretty cool after all? Would you risk the cheerleaders again your senior year, or just choose to dance again with the girl who brought ya?

It certainly seems that Nellie has had an enjoyable time with Buck Showalter and the boys. In fact, Heyman quotes Cruz’ agent Adam Katz as saying,

“It’s no secret it’s been a very positive experience for Nelson and the Orioles — though I don’t want to speak for them. He’s enjoyed every minute of it.”

The speculation is that Cruz does not want to deal with the uncertainties and stresses of another offseason of free agency if it can be avoided.

Cruz has been well-received by the Orioles fanbase. Hitting 34 home runs and leading the league will do that for you. Since the hundreds, heck – the thousands, of you who will read this are not in the same room with me where you could stone me to death with baseballs, I’ll go ahead and raise the next question …

“Should the Orioles extend Nelson Cruz?”

“What?” you say. “That’s the same question!”

No, what I mean by this is to ask if Cruz is really worth bringing back. There is no doubt that he saved the Orioles’ biscuit for the first half of the year. And not wanting to sound like a “what have you done for me lately?” sort of guy on the bottom line … well … what has he done for us lately?

Last night he hit a double that ended up being the winning run, and he hit two other balls hard. In recent games he seems to have found a better stroke.

But there is still the issue of an extended period of production difficulties – like two months of difficulties. And no, he’s not the only one, and yes, there are still 30 games to go, and some more after that. If he returns to something approaching the first half of the season and he wants to stay happy in Baltimore, we could just end the article here and say, “Git ‘R Done.”

It has been largely assumed all along that Nelson Cruz was unlikely to be back due to the simple financial mathematics of it all. I’ve wondered if the Orioles should not use resources to sign another happy-looking fellow – Delmon Young – for the primary DH role in 2015.  

Young has had a consistently good year, and people tend to forget that he is still rather young (Young is young is what I’m trying to say); he will turn 29 on September 14th. Nelson Cruz is far from over the hill, as he just turned 34 this summer.

Currently, Cruz is hitting .256 in almost 500 at-bats, while Young is at .300 in 200 total at-bats. If you extend Young’s production numbers to the same at-bats and plate appearances as Cruz, he actually would have nearly the same extra-base hit total – but more doubles and less home runs. The RBIs would be substantially less, though Young has not hit in the clean-up position as had Cruz.

At the end of the day (actually at the end of the season), it will come down to dollars and cents, as always, but it is all very intriguing. And it is very heartening that a free agent like Cruz would want to be in Baltimore. That sort of thing would not have been true at all, or even imaginable, just three to four short years ago.

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Tags: Delmon Young Nelson Cruz

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