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The Best Free Agent Signings in Twins History

Nelson Cruz clocked his 40th home run over the weekend and in the process became a member of the 400-home run club. Earlier in the year, I wrote about his unlikely quest for 400 home runs with the biggest caveat being that he didn’t hit his first home runs until he was 26 years old. Now he’s on the brink of one of the best seasons ever for a 39-year old player and it certainly looks like the Twins stole him on the free agent market.

So how does Cruz stack up against the other top free agents in Twins history?
Image courtesy of © Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Cruz (2019)
Baseball Reference WAR: 4.0
Cruz has smashed almost every designated hitter record in Twins history. He became only the third player in franchise history to hit 40 home runs following in the footsteps of Harmon Killebrew and Brian Dozier. He set the team’s DH records for home runs and RBIs and will add to those totals with a handful of games remaining this season. The influence of Cruz goes well beyond the numbers he has put up on the field as he has served in a mentor role to many players on the Twins roster. There’s no doubt in my mind that Miguel Sano wouldn’t have hit 30 home runs this season if not for the mentorship provided by Cruz.

Josh Willingham (2012)
Baseball Reference WAR: 3.3
Willingham doesn’t get as much reignition for his impact because he played on a pair of bad Twins teams. However, his 2012 campaign was one of the best in franchise history for a free agent signing. His defense was atrocious in the outfield, but he clubbed 35 home runs and collected 110 RBI, both career highs. He’d be out of the league after two more seasons, but it doesn’t take anything away from his first year in a Twins uniform. Like Cruz, he was credited with being a mentor to other players and he helped Brian Dozier turn in to a power-hitting threat in the years that followed his signing.

Jim Thome (2010)
Baseball Reference WAR: 3.6
At his signing,Thome was near the end of a career that led him to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but he had a little magic left in the tank during Target Fields’ first season. He hit 25 home runs, but it sure felt like a lot more with his foul pole shot and walk-off hits to help the club. Target Field was packed on a nightly basis and Thome was certainly helping the club on their way to the AL Central title. Heck, even Sports Illustrated did a story on him that season and it takes a lot for them to make their way to Minnesota. He hit his 600th home run while in a Twins uniform, but his impact on the club was felt long after he had left the city.

Jack Morris (1991)
Baseball Reference WAR: 4.3
Jack Morris only played one season in a Twins uniform, but it was certainly a memorable one. He went on to be an All-Star that season and pitched one of the greatest games in baseball history. At age 36, it would be his last All-Star appearance and it would be the last season he pitched over 245 innings. He led the American League in games started for only the second time in his career and he had 10 complete games to his credit by season’s end. He was a workhorse on a team that needed starting pitching help to reach the ultimate goal. Other pitchers like Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson were able to outperform expectations that season and maybe Morris and his example were able to play a role in helping the team.

These are just a few of the team’s best free agent signings. Who was left off the list? Who would you rank as the team’s best free agent signing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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26 Comments

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lecroy24fan
Sep 22 2019 07:24 PM

Chili Davis' 3.3 WAR in 1991 deserves a mention here. I would probably say Cruz slightly over Morris but Thome was fun. 

    • glunn, Blake, nokomismod and 4 others like this
None of these come close to being the best but were still significant IMHO.

Chili Davis (1991-92) -- huge numbers in the first half of the 91 season.
Kenny Rogers (2003) -- was with the Twins for only one year but was a key part of that year's rotation
Brian Harper (1990-93) -- everybody knows about him, right? Batted over .300 and had 269 RBIs in his 4 years with the team. Plus he had some memorable plays at home during the 91 WS.
Henry Blanco (2004) -- don't laugh too hard. He took over as starting catcher after Joe Mauer got hurt early in the season and did a pretty nice job for someone who was signed to be the backup catcher.

Morris won a WS game 7 -- he's got to be the best signing.
Cruz comes in second.
    • glunn, Blake, Longdistancetwins and 4 others like this
The criteria seems to be the best one-year impact...and based on only the first year? Why? There is Ervin Santana’s 2017 season of 4.8 bWAR.

Also Phil Hughes’ 2014 (which was the first year) bWAR of 4.5.
    • glunn, diehardtwinsfan, blindeke and 3 others like this

 

Let's start the discussion now? Do the Minnesota Twins exercise Nelson Cruz's contract option in 2020?

 

My opinion? If they don't, bulldoze Target Field, sell the franchise and make the real estate a dog park for hi-rise pet owners....

That just about sums it up.

    • Aerodeliria and Lasorda_This_Out like this
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Cooper Carlson
Sep 22 2019 07:46 PM

"...it would be the last season he pitched over 245 innings."

 

The Rays starters have combined for 267 innings in the second half this season.

    • notoriousgod71 likes this
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Aerodeliria
Sep 22 2019 09:41 PM

Morris pitched that Game 7. He wins it by a nod IMHO.

    • glunn, Twins33, nokomismod and 4 others like this

Anyone who watched the Twins win the near-consensus-best-World-Series-in-history with a 10 inning complete game shut out knows the answer...

 

He may be the best free agent signing ever (went to Toronto to pick up another).

 

What an absolute stud he was

    • glunn, Longdistancetwins, KGB and 1 other like this

I love watching Cruz play this year and he has been huge.Thome was a great signing as well.However, the Twins don't win a World Series without Morris. 

 

IMO, that makes him far and away the best Twins free agent signing ever.

    • glunn likes this
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operation mindcrime
Sep 23 2019 09:49 AM
Ricky Nolasco? Kendrys Morales? :)

Chili definitely comes to mind; 3.3 bWAR in the first year, 2.0 in the second year and really filled a need on the club (much like Nelson Cruz did; as I recall DH was one of those positions we weren't doing great at in the early 90's). Thome was great, but not as reliable as Chili.

 

Do you give extra credit for team performance? Chili was an offensive catalyst on the team that won a title. Jack Morris was the pitching catalyst in the same year (good year by McPhail!)

 

Brian Harper probably wins this one in total bWAR, but never had any really big years, just 5 straight really solid ones.

 

Ervin Santana is an interesting question: more limited first-year impact followed by two stellar seasons which is time here colored by a disastrous final season.

    • glunn likes this
Photo
diehardtwinsfan
Sep 23 2019 10:41 AM

 

Nelson Cruz clocked his 40th home run over the weekend and in the process became a member of the 400-home run club. Earlier in the year, I wrote about his unlikely quest for 400 home runs with the biggest caveat being that he didn’t hit his first home runs until he was 26 years old. Now he’s on the brink of one of the best seasons ever for a 39-year old player and it certainly looks like the Twins stole him on the free agent market.

So how does Cruz stack up against the other top free agents in Twins history?Nelson Cruz (2019)
Baseball Reference WAR: 4.0
Cruz has smashed almost every designated hitter record in Twins history. He became only the third player in franchise history to hit 40 home runs following in the footsteps of Harmon Killebrew and Brian Dozier. He set the team’s DH records for home runs and RBIs and will add to those totals with a handful of games remaining this season. The influence of Cruz goes well beyond the numbers he has put up on the field as he has served in a mentor role to many players on the Twins roster. There’s no doubt in my mind that Miguel Sano wouldn’t have hit 30 home runs this season if not for the mentorship provided by Cruz.

Josh Willingham (2012)
Baseball Reference WAR: 3.3
Willingham doesn’t get as much reignition for his impact because he played on a pair of bad Twins teams. However, his 2012 campaign was one of the best in franchise history for a free agent signing. His defense was atrocious in the outfield, but he clubbed 35 home runs and collected 110 RBI, both career highs. He’d be out of the league after two more seasons, but it doesn’t take anything away from his first year in a Twins uniform. Like Cruz, he was credited with being a mentor to other players and he helped Brian Dozier turn in to a power-hitting threat in the years that followed his signing.

Jim Thome (2010)
Baseball Reference WAR: 3.6
At his signing,Thome was near the end of a career that led him to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but he had a little magic left in the tank during Target Fields’ first season. He hit 25 home runs, but it sure felt like a lot more with his foul pole shot and walk-off hits to help the club. Target Field was packed on a nightly basis and Thome was certainly helping the club on their way to the AL Central title. Heck, even Sports Illustrated did a story on him that season and it takes a lot for them to make their way to Minnesota. He hit his 600th home run while in a Twins uniform, but his impact on the club was felt long after he had left the city.

Jack Morris (1991)
Baseball Reference WAR: 4.3
Jack Morris only played one season in a Twins uniform, but it was certainly a memorable one. He went on to be an All-Star that season and pitched one of the greatest games in baseball history. At age 36, it would be his last All-Star appearance and it would be the last season he pitched over 245 innings. He led the American League in games started for only the second time in his career and he had 10 complete games to his credit by season’s end. He was a workhorse on a team that needed starting pitching help to reach the ultimate goal. Other pitchers like Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson were able to outperform expectations that season and maybe Morris and his example were able to play a role in helping the team.

These are just a few of the team’s best free agent signings. Who was left off the list? Who would you rank as the team’s best free agent signing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Click here to view the article

How does Phil Hughe's first season here not make this list?

    • Sconnie likes this
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lukeduke1980
Sep 23 2019 10:48 AM

The 96 Molly season was really good, and what might have been...

    • KGB, HitInAPinch, jkcarew and 1 other like this
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MMMordabito
Sep 23 2019 12:06 PM

Right now Morris is #1.  

 

Cruz still has a a post-season in hand though.It's going to be a tall order to surpass Morris, but it would be amazing to see him do it.

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SpicyGarvSauce
Sep 23 2019 12:06 PM

 

Ricky Nolasco? Kendrys Morales? :)

 

Lance Lynn, baby.

 

    • operation mindcrime likes this

 

Lance Lynn, baby.

 

 

Thanks, i just barfed all over my keyboard.

    • operation mindcrime likes this

In the one-year category, Morris by a mile (until Cruz gets his chance to OPS 1.000 in this year's WS...and if not, there's always next year).

 

Or...Oliva in 1961, or Carew in 1964. I mean, they WERE free agents.

    • glunn likes this
Maybe Jack can still pitch in this year's WS.....Cruz is a true Leader and people just like him in the dugout and in the stands. I hope he gets hired as a coach after his playing days are done in a Few years!
    • glunn and Longdistancetwins like this
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notoriousgod71
Sep 23 2019 03:44 PM

 

None of these come close to being the best but were still significant IMHO.

Chili Davis (1991-92) -- huge numbers in the first half of the 91 season.
Kenny Rogers (2003) -- was with the Twins for only one year but was a key part of that year's rotation
Brian Harper (1990-93) -- everybody knows about him, right? Batted over .300 and had 269 RBIs in his 4 years with the team. Plus he had some memorable plays at home during the 91 WS.
Henry Blanco (2004) -- don't laugh too hard. He took over as starting catcher after Joe Mauer got hurt early in the season and did a pretty nice job for someone who was signed to be the backup catcher.

Morris won a WS game 7 -- he's got to be the best signing.
Cruz comes in second.

 

Blanco is key.

 

He had more career postseason home runs than Mauer and was the starting catcher the last time we won a postseason game.

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notoriousgod71
Sep 23 2019 03:45 PM

 

 

"...it would be the last season he pitched over 245 innings."

 

The Rays starters have combined for 267 innings in the second half this season.

 

Dislike.

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HitInAPinch
Sep 23 2019 04:33 PM

 

Morris pitched that Game 7. He wins it by a nod IMHO.

 

One Game.One GREAT Game! Best I've ever seen.

    • Aerodeliria likes this
I thought this topic sounded familiar!

http://twinsdaily.co...a-signing-ever/

I thought this topic sounded familiar!

http://twinsdaily.co...a-signing-ever/

Can a RandBall's Stu satire piece be far behind?

1. Morris. End of discussion.

 

2. Cruz

 

3. Chili

 

4. Molitor

 

 

Noticeably absent are the couple of Japanese and Korean free agent signings in recent years. Yes they were definite busts, but it was always worth a try.

 

Noticeably absent are the couple of Japanese and Korean free agent signings in recent years. Yes they were definite busts, but it was always worth a try.

Perhaps they would have been mentioned if the article title had read "Bust" instead of "Best".

 

Perhaps the article would have been deleted then too. And whoever posted it would have been sacked. :)


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