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February 22, 2014 at 8:22 AM

A few Saturday morning links and notes … Nelson Cruz signs one-year deal with Orioles

Good morning! First of all, big thanks to Larry Stone for giving me Friday morning off. I slept in till 6:45 a.m.! Larry had this notebook on Dustin Ackley playing left field only and a column on Scott Baker. But I was able to watch the US-Canada hockey game in the morning before the live chat. Hockey fanatic Michael Saunders wasn’t too boastful about the game, saying that’s not him. But did say, “You’ll get another chance in four years.”

Of course, some people took that day off to mock and tease … there will be repercussions.

The news of the morning is that outfielder Nelson Cruz has agreed to a one-year contract worth $8 million and $750,000 in incentives with the Baltimore Orioles. It’s a bit stunning since Cruz was asking four and five years at the beginning of the offseason. Now he’s getting a show-me contract that is less significantly less than the one year, $14.5 million qualifying offer he turned down from the Rangers.

Clearly, Cruz is hoping to have a big year in hitter friendly Camden Yards to up his value for next season. Adrian Beltre made a similar deal in 2010 after leaving the Mariners and signing a one-year $10 million contract with the Red Sox. He parlayed that into a 5-year, $80 million contract with the Rangers. Obviously, Cruz is not as good as Beltre in many ways — defense, health, running and so forth. But that seems to be his thinking.

It also seems evident that Cruz really didn’t want to come to Seattle, who likely would have offered a similar contract. Sources around baseball said during the winter meetings that Cruz wasn’t too interested in playing in Seattle. This seems to confirm it.

About 33 seconds after the news came out on Twitter, peopled were asking if this meant the Mariners would sign Kendrys Morales or if it makes it easier for the Mariners to sign Kendrys Morales.

I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance it happens.

The Cruz signing removes a player of interest from the market. If the Mariners are truly interested in supplementing their line-up, Morales is the best available option. They also know he can hit in Safeco Field. He’s a switch hitter that gives you solid at-bats. The downside is that he doesn’t have a position. The Cruz signing does give Morales’ agent – Scott Boras – a little “hand” in the negotiation. If Boras knows that the Mariners really are adamant about adding to their line-up, he now has the best option. He can and will use that.

No, I don’t know what this does with Ervin Santana. The Orioles are also interested in him. This paltry Cruz contract leaves them money to still make a run at Santana.

As for players actually with the Mariners ….

Felix Hernandez had a Venezuelan flag draped on the chair next to his locker. Later today, he and the rest of the Venezuelan players on the team (Yoervis Medina, Jesus Sucre, Jesus Montero, Endy Chavez, Humberto Quintero, Manny Pina, Gabriel Noriega) will have their pictures taken with messages of peace in their violence ravaged country. The Tigers led by Miguel Cabrera and Omar Vizquel were one of the first to start this show of support.

“I’m a little worried because my family is over there,” Hernandez said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I just want there to be peace. It’s all I want.”

Hernandez is in the process of trying to get them out of his hometown of Valencia.

“I’ve talked to my mom, we are trying to figure it out,” he said. “It’s really scary.”

He checks his phone for calls and texts, updates Twitter and watches television for updates. The images and videos are awful.

The pictures of Valencia bring fear and sadness.

“I just think, ‘Wow, how did that happen?” he said.

The worry of whether his loved ones are safe weighs on him.

“That’s the hardest part,” he said. “You’re here and they’re there and you don’t know what’s going on. I tell them to stay home, don’t go out and stay safe.”

Brandon Maurer feels “100 percent better” today than yesterday after his back locked up, according to manager Lloyd McClendon. Maurer will throw long toss today.

The Mariners will play a five inning intrasquad game on Tuesday. It will be mostly young players participating. “You won’t see Robinson Cano out there,” McClendon joked.

Linkage  …

Here’s my Friday hit on KJR with Ian Furness and Jason Puckett.

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Jeff Sullivan wrote about the Mariners not signing Chris Capuano. I understand the numbers. But I’ve never been a fan of soft-tossing lefties, who pitched only in the NL, coming over to the AL. I guess I’m biased that way.

Michael Pineda is looking healthy for the Yankees.

Ryan Braun talked but didn’t say much.




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