Rundown: Cruz, Cahill, Soria and Ramos
Image courtesy of © Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsNelson Cruz? But isn't he, like, really old? This was probably what Seattle Mariners fans were asking when their team signed him four years ago. Cruz is 38 now, but he's somehow been able to avoid a decline and was still among the best power hitters in baseball last season.
Cruz hit .256/.342/.509 (.850 OPS) with 37 home runs for Seattle last season, but that was a 74-point drop in his OPS from the prior year. Why? Well, it definitely doesn't have anything to do with how hard he hit the ball.
Cruz led the league in average exit velocity (minimum 300 batted ball events) at 93.9 mph and was fourth in hard hit % at 51.3, per Baseball Savant. His hard hit rate per FanGraphs was 42.3 percent, a career high. His BABIP, however, was just .264, the 22nd-lowest mark among qualified hitters. Cruz has a career .305 BABIP.
The man they call Boomstick has also hit for power in Safeco, no easy task, but his .295/.372/.527 (.900) line on the road was even more impressive last year. He's also a .325/.355/.667 (1.022 OPS) hitter in 124 career plate appearances at Target Field.
Cruz had a 132 DRC+ last season according to Baseball Prospectus. That ranks 24th among all hitters with at least 400 PAs. Eddie Rosario led the Twins with a 113 DRC+ last season.
No matter the track record, his age has to be a concern, but I'm willing to believe that Cruz can be a well above average middle of the lineup hitter for a couple more years. Only eight players hit more home runs than Cruz last season, and he still isn't having to completely sell out for that power. His strikeout rate (20.6) was comfortably below league average (22.3).
MLB Trade Rumors actually predicted the Twins would sign Cruz, putting the expected contract at two years, $30 million. That's probably the cheapest a hitter of this caliber is going to be acquired. The Twins aren't going to spend on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado and they didn't trade for Paul Goldschmidt or Robinson Cano. You get left with a 38-year-old (and that's if you're lucky).
I'd expect a Cruz signing would almost certainly result in the end of Tyler Austin's stay in Minnesota. It would be awfully difficult to fit Cruz, C.J. Cron and Austin (who is out of options) all on the same 25-man roster.
Trevor Cahill had a strong season in his second stay with the A's, pitching to a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but he was much better at home than on the road. In fact, Cahill has been especially comfortable at the Oakland Coliseum over his career. In 383 innings in Oakland, Cahill has a 3.01 ERA. In his other 960 1/3 innings, he has a 4.50 ERA. But one skill that should translate anywhere is his ability to induce ground balls.
Among the pitchers to log 190 innings over the past two seasons (138), Cahill's 54.4 GB% ranked eighth. He also had a career-high 11.7 swinging strike rate, which ranks 33rd among the 140 pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in 2018. Kyle Gibson was at 11.5 and Jose Berrios 11.3.
Those ballpark splits worry me, but I still think Cahill could be a boost to the 2019 Twins rotation. MLB Trade Rumors projected him to fetch a two year, $22 million deal.
I mentioned in a rundown last week how I felt Joakim Soria was the one reliever who I felt best fit with the Twins in terms of both need and expected salary. He's had a few slip ups, but in terms of bullpen arms he's been pretty reliable over his career. Both his walk rate and strikeout rate have been trending the right direction each of the past three seasons. Among the pitchers to log 60 innings in 2018 (273), Soria's 4.69 K:BB ratio was tied with Taylor Rogers for 27th place.
I like the idea of the Twins signing Soria, who has 220 career saves, to be the closer. He performed nicely in that role for the White Sox last season before being traded over to Milwaukee. He's 34-years-old, so fastball velocity will be a concern, but he did buck a recent trend of losing velo as the season progressed last year.
Soria's expected contract is two years, $18 million, per MLB Trade Rumors. The Twins would need to further address the bullpen, in my opinion, but this would be a start.
Finally, Wilson Ramos ... we know all too well this guy has been good when healthy. The former Twins prospect cranked it up a notch last year, hitting .306/.358/.487 (.845) for the Rays and Phillies. Catchers are so difficult to find, so I have a hard time believing Ramos, 31, is going to be available at a discount. MLB Trade Rumors had him signing for three years and $36 million.
It's hard to imagine the Twins making that kind of a commitment to a catcher, given they have Jason Castro and Mitch Garver (and Willians Astudillo), but who knows? Castro is only under contract for one more season and, as Nick pointed out last week, Garver has some injury concerns right now. So I suppose it could happen.
OK, now it's your turn. What do you think about these guys?
- mikelink45, nclahammer, ToddlerHarmon and 3 others like this