Why the Royals passed on Nelson Cruz and his 28 homers

Nelson Cruz is hitting .287 with a whopping .923 OPS to go along with his 28 homers and 74 RBI.

Sharon Ellman/AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the inconsistencies and the lack of power from the Royals’ offense continue to drive Royals fans to the edge, many wonder why the team didn’t work harder to obtain a productive, middle-of-the-order bat in the offseason.

There was one such power bat available — Nelson Cruz, who happens to have walloped 28 homers already this season for the Baltimore Orioles.

And what’s truly puzzling to many fans is that Cruz wound up being extremely affordable — the Orioles signed him to a one-year deal for $8 million.

The Royals, like many teams, were interested in Cruz and bounced his name around in their offseason meetings.

"You look at every player that is available," Royals general manager Dayton Moore told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "Not everybody fits for whatever reason. The way our team was constructed at the time, it wasn’t going to work. We evaluated it, just like 29 other teams.

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"He’s having a terrific year. Good for him and good for Baltimore."

Royals officials, like most teams, were wary of Cruz’s original asking price. While it now appears the Orioles virtually stole Cruz at a crazy discount, his price tag originally was much higher.

Keep in mind that after Cruz rejected the Texas Rangers’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million, he let it be known that he was seeking a four-year deal for roughly $75 million.

That, of course, was way out of the Royals’ financial reach, though Royals officials will not admit that publicly.

"There was an economic evaluation at the time that included the acquisition cost (giving up a draft pick)," Moore said. "You evaluate how a player fits in with your core group, and how you can create an opportunity for that player. The timing of it just didn’t work."

As Cruz and his agent floated those figures around last November, the Royals quickly moved on. The Royals eventually made the trade in early December with Milwaukee for Nori Aoki, whom they hoped would fill the void in right field.

Interest in Cruz, meanwhile, became stagnant.

Teams were uneasy not only about Cruz’s sticker price, but also the acquisition cost — possibly giving up a first-round draft pick to sign him. And there was the issue of Cruz’s 50-game suspension last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

Weeks turned into months last offseason as Cruz remained unsigned heading into February.

Meanwhile, the Royals already believed they had their outfield set with Alex Gordon in left, Lorenzo Cain in center and Aoki in right.


"Every team had an opportunity (to sign Cruz)," Moore said. "In our case, we had Billy (Butler) on the club as our DH. We already had Nori Aoki on the club. We had Cain on the club. Gordo on the club.

"I don’t know how it would have worked …."

Cruz dropped his demands for a multi-year deal in late February, and the Orioles got the bargain of the offseason. The Orioles wound up forfeiting their second-round pick for signing Cruz because they already had given up their first-round pick when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez.

"Every player goes into the offseason with a set of financial demands," Moore said. "Those demands tend to get lower as the offseason goes on, especially if they don’t have a lot of bidders. Then sometimes they sign at a discounted rate."

Looking back now, it’s easy to second-guess not only the Royals, but all other teams as well. Cruz, 34, is hitting .287 with a whopping .923 OPS to go along with his 28 homers and 74 RBI. He is one of the main reasons the Orioles have ascended to first place in the American League East.

"For us, at the time, it just wasn’t going to be a fit," Moore said. "You can only evaluate what you know at the time."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.