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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.

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.