The Orioles have made designated hitter-outfielder Nelson Cruz a qualifying offer for a one-year, $15.3 million contract to stay with the club.
Cruz, who led the major leagues with a career-high 40 home runs this season, has one week to decide whether to accept the offer. If he declines the deal, the Orioles would receive a draft pick if Cruz signs with another club.
The Orioles were expected to make this move in order to reap some compensation for Cruz if he chooses to go elsewhere.
The Orioles signed Cruz, 34, to a one-year, $8 million deal in February after he declined a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers last offseason. Cruz was coming off a 50-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal, and he was unable to find the multiyear contract that he wanted.
But Cruz, the Most Valuable Oriole this season, now is coming off a career year and likely will receive a multiyear deal on the open market, so it's likely that he will decline the offer and test the free-agent market.
The qualifying offer process has been around since 2012, and it had an effect on the free-agent market last season as teams were hesitant to give up their first unprotected draft pick to sign a player.
The Orioles did not make a qualifying offer to right fielder Nick Markakis, who became a free agent over the weekend when the club declined their part of their mutual option that would have paid him $17.5 million in 2015. Instead, the Orioles will pay Markakis a $2 million buyout.
The sides continue to negotiate to keep Markakis -- the club's longest-tenured player -- with the organization. The Orioles have an exclusive window to negotiate with Markakis that expires at 11:59 p.m. tonight.
Had the Orioles made Markakis a qualifying offer, they would have been offering to pay him $17.3 million (with the $2 million buyout), nearly as much as the option they declined on him. So it would have been done with the assumption that Markakis was heading elsewhere.
In a procedural move, the Orioles also reinstated third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters from the 60-day disabled list, adding them back onto the organization's 40-man roster. The Orioles' 40-man roster is currently at 33 players.