Free agent Nelson Cruz and the Baltimore Orioles have reached agreement on a one-year deal, giving the slugger a fresh start after his drug suspension.
A person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press on Saturday that Cruz will earn about $8.5 million, and can make more in performance bonuses.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract wasn't complete. Other media outlets had reported a deal was in place.
The 33-year-old Cruz was suspended 50 games last year while with the Texas Rangers as a result of Major League Baseball's investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal. He returned from the penalty in time to play one game — he went 0 for 4 in the Rangers' loss to Tampa Bay in a tiebreaker for the second AL wild-card spot.
Baltimore began full-squad workouts at spring training earlier this week, and Cruz was among the last prominent free agents to find a team.
Manager Buck Showalter's team opened camp still in need of a designated hitter, preferably someone to join big league home run champion Chris Davis in the lineup. Cruz may well find the cozy dimensions at Camden Yards to his liking — he is a career .333 hitter with two homers and nine RBIs in 81 at-bats at the ballpark.
Baltimore signed Delmon Young to a minor league contract in the offseason, and also was looking at free agent Kendrys Morales.
Cruz, a two-time All-Star in the outfield, is expected to become Baltimore's DH. If so, he could be the Orioles' 12th different opening day DH in 12 years.
Cruz hit .266 with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 109 games last year. He's averaged 27 homers in the last five seasons.
The Orioles finished 85-77 last season, a year after they made their first playoff appearance since 1997. Danny Valencia was most often in the DH spot, starting 38 times and hitting .304 overall with eight homers and 23 RBIs. Baltimore traded Valencia to Kansas City for David Lough in December.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.