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Report: Orioles and Nelson Cruz agree to a one-year, $8 million contract

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UPDATE: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the Orioles and Cruz have agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract, pending a physical. The deal includes $750,000 in incentives, but it looks like a potential bargain addition for Baltimore as they attempt to make a run at the postseason.

As for Cruz, settling for a one-year, $8 million guarantee is obviously not what he had in mind at the start of the offseason. However, a number of factors had an impact on his market, including draft pick compensation, questions about how he’ll perform after his PED suspension and away from Texas, as well as his age and poor defense. On the bright side, if he has a nice year in Baltimore, perhaps he’ll get a better payday next offseason.

8:50 a.m. ET: After making a move for a starting pitcher earlier this week by signing right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract, the Orioles are now on the verge of adding a bat. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, Baltimore is closing in on a deal for free agent slugger Nelson Cruz.

No word yet on the terms involved and Heyman writes that a couple of issues still need to be resolved, but a deal is seen as “extremely likely.” The Orioles would surrender their second-round pick (and the corresponding draft pool money) in order to sign Cruz, as they already gave up their first-rounder for Jimenez. It’s unclear whether signing Cruz officially takes the Orioles out of the mix for Ervin Santana, but it’s safe to say that they fully intend to contend this season.

The Orioles are unsettled in the DH spot, so given Cruz’s poor reputation on defense, he should be a good fit there. It could also help keep him healthy, which has been an issue for him in previous since and should be a consideration as he moves toward his mid-30s.

Cruz was limited to 109 games last season due to his 50-game PED suspension, but he still hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. The 33-year-old has 135 home runs over the past five seasons. Only 16 players have more in the same timespan.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.

No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.

Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.

The Nationals are NL East champs once again

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after clinching the National League East Division Championship after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.

The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2  innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.

Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:

Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.

While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.

Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.