Free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz is bringing his big bat to the Mariners.
A report broke Monday from El Caribe in the Dominican Republic that the two sides reached agreement on a four-year deal for $57 million. The newspaper cited a source as “close to the negotiations.”
Sources subsequently contacted by The News Tribune confirmed the report is essentially correct, although the Mariners declined official comment. Such silence is typical until a player passes a routine physical examination.
Cruz’s deal is believed to contain a $1 million signing bonus, which would boost its value to $58 million.
El Caribe reported Cruz, 34, was traveling to Seattle to undergo that examination. That suggests the deal could become official later this week.
All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager is also expected to undergo his physical this week in Seattle as the final step in obtaining his new seven-year contract for $100 million.
Cruz led the majors last season with 40 homers while playing for the Baltimore Orioles. He also finished third in the American League with 108 RBIs while batting .271 and making the All-Star team.
The signing addresses the Mariners’ prioritized off-season quest to acquire a right-handed power hitter to bat cleanup in their lineup. El Caribe reported the deal could contain an option for a fifth year.
The signing means the Mariners will surrender their first-round pick — currently No. 19 overall — in this June’s new-player draft because Cruz received a qualifying offer of $15.3 million from the Orioles.
Cruz received a three-year offer from Baltimore, believed to be in the $40 million range, but the Orioles balked at extending the deal to four years.
While Cruz could fill the Mariners’ hole in right field, his defensive shortcomings make him a far better fit as a designated hitter. Accordingly, the club’s next priority is to find a right fielder.
Possibilities include two other free agents: Torii Hunter and Alex Rios.
The Mariners also continue to discuss a possible trade with the Dodgers to acquire outfielder Matt Kemp, who is under contract for five more years at $107 million.
The sticking point in such a deal appears to be Los Angeles’ insistence that either right-hander Taijuan Walker or lefty James Paxton be included in any deal.
The Mariners believe they have sufficient payroll flexibility to add Kemp even after signing Cruz and reaching a new deal with Seager, but the Dodgers are now drawing increased interest in Kemp from the Orioles.
That’s not surprising; the Orioles need a power bat to replace Cruz in their lineup.
Cruz is a 10-year veteran who played for Texas from 2006-13. He averaged 29 homers and 86 RBIs over the past six years and made the All-Star team on three occasions (2009, 2013-14).
The Mariners nearly signed Cruz a year ago when he was a free agent coming off a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis drug scandal.
The two sides had an agreement in place for roughly $7.5 million this past season with a club option for about $9 million in 2015 before ownership vetoed the deal.
Cruz then signed a one-year deal with the Orioles for $8 million.
The Mariners, like all teams, face a 9 p.m. Pacific deadline Tuesday to offer contracts to unsigned players under their control.
Any unsigned player not offered a contract prior to the deadline — often characterized as “non-tendered” — becomes a free agent who can sign elsewhere immediately.
The Mariners have 33 players who must be tendered contracts prior to the deadline including — at this point — third baseman Kyle Seager, whose new seven-year deal for $100 million has not yet been announced.
The club also has just one opening on its 40-man roster, although that should be filled later this week when its four-year deal with free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz becomes official.
Clubs are prohibited from selecting players in the Rule 5 Draft unless they have available roster spots. The draft is Dec. 11 at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
Counting Seager, the Mariners have seven players eligible for arbitration. Those players, if they receive a contract offer prior to the deadline, are considered signed players, although their salary is subject to arbitration.