BOSTON — Nelson Cruz was there for the taking last offseason. The Red Sox didn’t pull the trigger.
Cruz ultimately signed with the Baltimore Orioles in free agency, kicking off what has been a very productive year for the veteran slugger. However, Cruz told WEEI.com on Sunday that David Ortiz reached out to him about potentially signing with the Red Sox before landing with the O’s.
“I had a chance to talk to David (Ortiz) in person about it,” Cruz said. “He knows how I go about business, how much I like to win and I like being a part of good teams. It’s special. He is one of the faces of MLB and one of the greatest hitters. There’s no doubt it’s always special when he tries to get you for your team.”
The Red Sox certainly could use Cruz. Boston’s offense has struggled this season, and Cruz is having a tremendous year. The 34-year-old entered Monday’s action hitting .290 with 27 homers and 71 RBIs, giving the Orioles plenty of right-handed pop.
The Red Sox appeared to be set in the outfield entering this season. Thus, general manager Ben Cherington decided not to pursue Cruz, though the decision looks much worse now that the unit continues to struggle and Shane Victorino continues to battle injuries.
“We didn’t think Cruz was a center fielder and that leaves left or DH, and obviously DH is covered,” Cherington said last week on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan.” “In left field we have coming off last year a combination of (Jonny) Gomes and (Daniel) Nava, which delivered some of the best left field production in baseball last year in aggregate. In fact their combined performance was better than Nelson Cruz’s was in 2013. Then on top of that, you have to give up a draft pick — a first-round pick to sign him — and the balance of need and what we’d have to give up, we just felt didn’t match up.
“In hindsight you can look at it and say, ‘Wow, we could really use that power,’ but I can’t really look back at that one and think we’d have done it differently. But give the Orioles credit and give Nelson Cruz credit. He’s having a great year.”
Cruz served a 50-game suspension last season for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy. His 2014 campaign has been much smoother, and the Orioles are reaping the benefits.