Nelson Cruz was jobless into the month of February, after spring training had already begun. Cruz had rejected the Rangers’ $14.1 million qualifying offer back in November, and remained unsigned through the winter because of the draft pick compensation to which he was attached. Finally, the Orioles relented, signing him to a one-year, $8 million deal on February 22.
Just over three months later, Cruz is baseball’s home run and RBI leader with 20 and 52, respectively. Cruz ended the month of May with a home run and three runs batted in against the Astros, and is slashing a cool .315/.383/.675. If not for Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Cruz would be a frontrunner for AL Player of the Month honors, as he has belted 13 home runs and knocked in 27 runs in May. Encarnacion is at 16 and 33 on the month, respectively.
As our own Drew Silva pointed out on Twitter, Cruz is on pace for 60 HR and 156 RBI. Should he keep it up, he would set the Orioles’ club record for RBI in a single season, surpassing Ken Williams’ 155 in 1922 with the St. Louis Browns. Miguel Tejada holds the modern Orioles record with 150 in 2002. Chris Davis drove in 138 last season.