With career highs in home runs and RBIs, Nelson Cruz did more than enough to earn his first Most Valuable Oriole award this season.
Now the question is whether the pending free agent will return next year to have a chance to win it again.
“Hopefully I stay here, we work something out. Like I said before, I understand they're going to do whatever they think is better for the team,” Cruz, 34, said. “I love it here. I love the fans, I love my teammates.”
Cruz, who leads the major leagues in home runs with 39 and is second in the American League with 106 RBIs, said before Sunday’s series finale against the Boston Red Sox that he’ll think about his contract situation once his season is completed. Until then, he has more pressing concerns, like winning his first World Series.
“We’ll wait until the end of the year, see what happens,” said Cruz, who earlier this month confirmed his representation and the Orioles have had preliminary discussions on an extension. “We have an important thing going on in front of us, so after the season is over, we’ll figure [the contract] out.”
Coming off a 2013 season in which he was suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis’ performance-enhancing drug scandal, Cruz landed just a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles, partially because whoever signed him would have to surrender a top draft pick.
The marriage between Cruz and the Orioles was a perfect one. The club had already forfeited a first-round selection for right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, so signing Cruz only cost a second-rounder. And the Orioles wanted one more power hitter in the lineup.
“He didn't have a chip on his shoulder,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He just came in with something to prove about some of the questions people had about him, why they didn't commit to him more long term. He’s put himself in a good position in his career. He doesn’t like talking about [contract] stuff right now. He’s got his priorities and his tunnel vision going for the rest of the year.”
Cruz was named on all but one of the ballots submitted for the annual Louis M. Hatter MVO Award, named in honor of the late Baltimore Sun sportswriter who covered the Orioles for 27 years. Center fielder Adam Jones placed second and was the only other player to garner first-place votes on a ballot in which voters selected a Top 3. Closer Zach Britton finished third.
“We have a great group of guys, a lot of guys who can be most valuable player here,” Cruz said. “Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Markakis, relievers … so it's definitely special.”