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Orioles make $15.3 million qualifying offer to Nelson Cruz

Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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