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Even for just one year, Nelson Cruz isn't a risk-free deal

Connection to Biogenesis scandal is problematic for team with steroid past

By Peter Schmuck

11:33 AM EST, February 22, 2014

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If the reports turn out to be true that the Orioles have agreed to terms with outfielder Nelson Cruz on a one-year, $8 million deal -- and that appears to be the case -- there's no question that he will add some more punch to an explosive offensive lineup.

He'll also will come with some baggage that leaves room to wonder why the Orioles chose him over fellow desperate free agent Kendrys Morales.

Cruz was suspended for 50 games last year for his connection to the Biogenesis PED scandal, which is problematic -- at least from an image standpoint -- for an Orioles organization that once was knee-deep in baseball's long-running steroid scandal.

It also would seem to be counter-intuitive for a team that features two of baseball's most vocal anti-steroid crusaders -- Nick Markakis and Chris Davis.

Markakis has gone on record favoring extreme penalties for PED users and Davis said last year that he considers Roger Maris' 61-homer performance in 1961 as the real single-season record, even though it has been eclipsed six times by hitters under suspicion of using steroids.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette, not speaking specifically about Cruz, indicated on Saturday morning that the PED history of a player -- and how that might affect clubhouse chemistry -- is taken into consideration during the vetting process.

"That's always a concern,'' he said. "I think it's a concern for the industry, but Major League Baseball has addressed that with the Joint Drug Agreement with the Players Association and that seems to be working."

The Orioles also must sacrifice their third pick in the June draft after giving up the first two with the signing earlier this week of free agent pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and the deal for Bud Norris last summer.

Cruz cost them the 55th overall choice, but Duquette already addressed the team's decision to sacrifice a large part of this year's draft to put the team in the best possible position to compete for the American League East title.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com
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