Cruz said last week that staying with the Orioles is still his first choice. We should start to see how much he wants to remain in Baltimore over the next few weeks.
Keep in mind that the Orioles gave up their second-round pick – the 55th overall – last season in order to sign Cruz, because he was tied to a qualifying offer then. If Cruz signs elsewhere, the Orioles will receive a compensation draft pick after the first round.
This is the third year of the qualifying offer process and both players and teams are still trying to figure it out. In years past, teams have been hesitant to give up a draft pick to sign a free agent tied to a qualifying offer.
One of those 12 free agents this year, Michael Cuddyer, signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the New York Mets on Monday. The Mets forfeited the 15th overall pick in next year's draft to sign Cuddyer, who played in just 49 games last season.
It will be interesting to see if other teams are that willing to give up draft picks.
If Cruz signs elsewhere, the Orioles would have five draft picks in the first three rounds next June (they will also have a competitive-balance pick). That would place added emphasis on the draft one year after the Orioles didn't have a pick until the third round.
It's a valuable opportunity to place five solid players into the minor league system. It will be a critical time for the Orioles to ensure they can take the best five available in that span and make the financial commitment to sign them.
It's especially important because over the past few years, the Orioles have dealt some of their better prospects – left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Andrew Miller, jumps to mind – in order to make some important in-season deals.
The Orioles need to use those picks to replenish the farm system and create a bigger pool of legitimate prospects that will either help the major league club or can be used as trade bait down the road.