The Minnesota Twins made a move this morning, signing DH slugger Nelson Cruz to a 1-year contract with a team option for 2020.
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason so far for the Minnesota Twins and the MLB as a whole, but the team broke the recent silence by signing veteran power hitter Nelson Cruz to a contract on Thursday morning. As reported by Jeff Passan, the contract is worth $14 million guaranteed in 2019, and includes a team option for 2020 worth $12 million. The Twins could also buy out the 2020 option for $300,000. Cruz has spent the past 4 seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
Cruz rarely plays in the field, totaling just 9 games in the past 2 years, all in the outfield. He will slot in as the Minnesota Twins’ everyday DH, after proving to be one of the league’s best over the past 5 years. Over that span, he’s put together an average season of .281/.356/.541 with 25 doubles, 41 home runs, and 104 RBI, earning 4 trips to the All-Star Game and earning MVP votes 4 different times, finishing as high as 6th in 2015.
While on the older side at 38 years old and going on to his 15th season in his career, Cruz hasn’t been slowed by injuries or general decline that you often see from players in their late 30s. He’s proven to be quite durable, appearing in at least 144 games each year since 2014, while performing at a high level.
While 2018 was a bit of a drop off in production from the previous 4 seasons, it was still a very good year, with a triple slash of .256/.342/.509 with 37 home runs and 97 RBI. Additionally, some of those comparatively lower numbers may be a result of poor luck.
Baseball Savant, MLB’s Statcast-based statistical analysis tool, computed an expected batting average of .285 and an expected SLG% of .564 for Cruz in 2018, significantly higher than his actual totals. Cruz has also ranked in pretty good company in OPS over the past 5 years-
There really doesn’t appear to be much of any downside to the signing. $14 million is quite affordable for a hitter of his caliber, and the Minnesota Twins are only committed to him for 1 season. If the front office doesn’t want him back in 2020, a $300K buyout is very cheap. At the very least, the Minnesota Twins should be able to trade Cruz mid-season if things haven’t gone their way, as it is a pretty team-friendly contract.
Cruz brings a much needed elite bat to the lineup, adding some power and average to the middle of the lineup. He also may be asked to work as a mentor to Miguel Sano. Both players have insane power, and Cruz may be able to relate well to Sano, as both players are from the Dominican Republic.
The only slight downside to note is that Cruz will require the DH slot in the everyday lineup, meaning Sano, Tyler Austin, CJ Cron, and Jake Cave won’t have that as an option from day to day and may struggle to get as much playing time.However, I’m personally guessing that the Minnesota Twins are still hoping that Sano can play at third base everyday, and Austin and Cron were likely going to share time at first base anyways.
As for Cave, he could still see a few games each week while rotating around the outfield, giving off days to starters as needed. Plus, Byron Buxton has struggled with injuries each of past few seasons, so Cave could end seeing more consistent time that way if Buxton’s health falters again.