As one of the players suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal for using performance-enhancing drugs, Nelson Cruz entered the 2014 season with a lot to prove. He declined the Texas Rangers' one-year, $14 million qualifying offer and opted for free agency. He ended up waiting until February 24 to find a new home and signed with the Baltimore Orioles on a very modest one-year deal for $8 million.
Cruz, 34, quickly proved his worth, homering on Opening Day off then Boston Red Sox ace, Jon Lester. His power would be on full display from that day forward, as he belted 28 first half homers, helping him earn a spot on the American League All-Star team. His home run prowess slowed slightly in the second half, yet he still ended up leading all of MLB in homers with 40, while posting a .271 average and 108 RBI. He was a major cog driving the Orioles' machine that won their first division title since 1997.
Now that he has proven that his power remains while being clean of PEDs, Cruz will be looking to cash in on a much bigger contract for 2015. Fangraphs projects Cruz's market value to come in around $45 million over three years. His below-average defensive skills and age make him a much better fit for an AL team, where he can split time between designated hitter and the outfield. A return to the Orioles appears to be his top priority and makes sense for both sides, but if not, many suitors will be lining up to add Cruz's power bat to the heart of their lineup.
Cruz never seemed liked a fit for the Mets moving forward, but with the team's addition of Michael Cuddyer, any remote chance of the team considering Cruz has been eliminated.