Nelson Cruz, Mariners
On paper, the Orioles’ decision to let Cruz leave in free agency after the 2014 season made sense. Even though he’d cranked a league-leading 40 home runs, driven in 108 runs and won Most Valuable Oriole honors that year, Cruz had red flags. He was 34, and one season removed from serving a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug program. Outbidding the Mariners’ four-year, $57 contract for Cruz would’ve been a risk.
In hindsight, though, it’s a risk the Orioles should’ve taken. Cruz has gotten even better since leaving the club, setting a new career high with 44 homers in 2015 and adding another 43 in 2016 while posting an OPS of .915 or better each year. Cruz is off to another scorching start this season, batting .330 with a 1.012 OPS, seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 28 games. And he’s accomplished all this while playing his home games at spacious Safeco Field, one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the majors.
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