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Free Agency / Re-Signings 2020-21 Offseason

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Free agency is likely going to be a really slow burn this year, but I still think it's worth having a thread to discuss signings. ...
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Why the Twins Shouldn't Re-Sign Nelson Cruz

After the last two seasons, it’s fair to want Nelson Cruz back in a Twins uniform. There’s surely a price that the two parties can agree upon. As reasonable as that price may come to be, what if this still isn’t the best route for the 2021 Minnesota Twins to take?
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Cruz has been an enigma in the twilight of his baseball career putting up MVP level seasons long past his prime. It’s easy to believe that Cruz will simply hit forever. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. At 40, another season like the two we’ve seen from Cruz recently would be quite literally historic. Projection systems for 2021 reflect this.

Cruz Steamer: .256/.344/.490, 114 wRC+, 1.2 WAR

Steamer has under-projected Cruz every year for awhile now due to his age. This year looks a bit different however, as in 2020 we started to see some red flags that often arise right before the bottom drops out on an aging player. Cruz’s average plummeted almost .100 points in the second half, his OBP and Slugging saw similar declines.

The reality is that his first half 1.122 OPS would never hold, and his second half .842 mark is still plenty respectable. That being said, his strikeout rate also increased by 8% as the shortened season went on and his K% finished at his worst mark since the dawn of Statcast in 2015. His average exit velocity also was his lowest since the metric was measured in 2015.

Hitters typically age out of baseball in the same way, they just can’t make contact with certain pitches anymore. Then all it takes is a scouting report and the league to adjust and all of a sudden a hitter with decades of success lacks the physical ability to adjust back. Admittedly this is no sure thing with Cruz who’s beaten father time over and over. Perhaps his ailing knee was to blame at season's end and he has another stellar year in him.

If this were last winter, giving Cruz a chance to make good one more season might be worth the risk. However, this season there are financial limitations and more importantly other improvements that can be made on the roster with readily available candidates to pivot to.

Javy Baez Steamer:.255/.298/.471, 94 wRC+, 2.2 WAR
Trevor Story Steamer: .276/.346/.528, 109 wRC+, 3.8 WAR
Marcus Semien: .253/.336/.436, 103 wRC+, 3.0 WAR

Shortstop is a spot the Twins are rumored to be exploring replacements for, and there’s no shortage of options on the market. All are likely in the same price range as a 40-year-old Nelson Cruz and would likely upgrade the premier shortstop position both defensively and offensively. It also solves the Twins utility problem by improving upon the 2020 Marwin/Adrianza performance with Polanco/Arraez. Baez and Story would cost more than money, but the recent Francisco Lindor trade goes to show just how cheap these one-year shortstops can be on the trade market.

None of these options have quite the offensive projections Cruz has, but they also carry defensive value and don’t carry the risk of their production dropping off to career ending levels such as Cruz. It’s also easy to imagine a scenario where the Twins rotate Garver/Sano/Rooker/Kirilloff into the DH spot and get well above league average production.

What it all comes down to is this: The Twins likely won’t spend on both Cruz and an impact shortstop addition. If they do, it will surely stop them from appropriately addressing the rotation and bullpen needs. Spending on Cruz brings significant risk, and the likeliest outcome may be a good season that can be replicated in the DH spot by players already on the team. Adding a bigtime shortstop won’t break the bank or cost the farm system much, and will almost surely be an upgrade at two positions.

For a Twins team with several needs this offseason, it may be wise to make the move that addresses multiple positions and brings less risk. Cruz for $16 million could easily become a sunken cost a month into the season. A similar price for Baez/Story/Semien gives a surefire contender a floor on their investment, and for that reason, The Twins should avoid re-signing Nelson Cruz.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know below.

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24 Comments

I’ve loved Cruz as much as anybody but the last few weeks of the season he stopped hitting good sliders. I knew he was cooked then. If his market crashes to the point where we could get him for 6M, let’s do it. But I don’t think it will, the White Sox or Rangers will bite before then.
    • mikelink45 likes this
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Doctor Gast
Jan 10 2021 07:31 AM
Cruz at $16 M is probably a tipping point of not signing him. If the universal DH doesn't come thru, which as time passes less likely it will happen IMO. We can sign him for considerably less, which should be our plan A. If we sign for less, we should be able to trade for an under paid SS or SS/CF utility (a FA might be then out of our budget) plus a pitcher
Cruz's stats has been great these 2 yrs. 2020 when most hitters slumped w/o the juiced ball, Cruz still put out respectable #s. Beyond the stats Cruz is the heart & soul of the team. Odds are that Cruz can`t maintain his great stats but his heart & soul will still be there.
I can see where you are coming from, Cody & I believe it'd be a great plan B
    • TopGunn#22, mikelink45, Dman and 1 other like this

I've been a Cruz guy all off seasonI usually say something like "He's our BEST hitter, and it's not even close."

However...

As the cold winter dims my memory of Cruz Bombas or clutch 2-out RBI's I've had to reconsider.

Steamer's projections certainly look realistic I can see those stats more than a .290-.300 BA and .500 Slugging Percentage.

One question though:  

I don't claim to understand all the metrics of "Steamers" projections, but if Trevor Story has a higher batting average, OBP and Slugging Percentage than Cruz and his speed on the bases would allow him to score from 2nd on singles and from 1st on doubles---how can his wRC+ be LESS than Nellie's ???

Improving our defense at SS is a PLUS.

Getting Younger is a PLUS.

Getting more speed on the basepaths is a PLUS.

Adding a better Starting Pitcher to the rotation is a PLUS.

Adding another GOOD arm to the BP (Hand, Bradley, Hendricks) is a PLUS.

Adding someone like Ketel Marte would be a PLUS. (this would necessitate a trade of Polanco or Arraez for further improvements).SP ??

I hate to say it but the well thought out articles about moving on from Nellie are changing my mind. 

And yes.I could see the White Sox gobble Cruz up if we move in a different direction.THAT would be hard to swallow but still probably the right thing to do.  

    • mikelink45 and jrod23 like this

I don't want Cruz at any price. As noted earlier, he slowed down considerably in the second half last year. Slump? Injury? Age? There's no way to be sure. Will Rocco have a quick hook? What impact does it have on the team if Cruz stops hitting? Do you let him try to hit out of a slump, hide him on the bench? What affect does benching your "heart & soul" have on the rest of the team? The worst case scenario may be mistaking age related decline for a temporary slump and continuing to bat Cruz in the heart of the order through an extended period of ineffectiveness. By the time it's clear Cruz is washed up we may have wasted another season. I'd rather use the money to sign a defensive upgrade or pitcher(s). We have enough boppers in the lineup to effectively rotate the DH position. 

 

 

    • TopGunn#22 and Joey Self like this
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Major League Ready
Jan 10 2021 08:49 AM

 

I've been a Cruz guy all off seasonI usually say something like "He's our BEST hitter, and it's not even close."

However...

As the cold winter dims my memory of Cruz Bombas or clutch 2-out RBI's I've had to reconsider.

Steamer's projections certainly look realistic I can see those stats more than a .290-.300 BA and .500 Slugging Percentage.

One question though:  

I don't claim to understand all the metrics of "Steamers" projections, but if Trevor Story has a higher batting average, OBP and Slugging Percentage than Cruz and his speed on the bases would allow him to score from 2nd on singles and from 1st on doubles---how can his wRC+ be LESS than Nellie's ???

Improving our defense at SS is a PLUS.

Getting Younger is a PLUS.

Getting more speed on the basepaths is a PLUS.

Adding a better Starting Pitcher to the rotation is a PLUS.

Adding another GOOD arm to the BP (Hand, Bradley, Hendricks) is a PLUS.

Adding someone like Ketel Marte would be a PLUS. (this would necessitate a trade of Polanco or Arraez for further improvements).SP ??

I hate to say it but the well thought out articles about moving on from Nellie are changing my mind. 

And yes.I could see the White Sox gobble Cruz up if we move in a different direction.THAT would be hard to swallow but still probably the right thing to do.  

 

wRC+ takes ball park into account. Story playing half his games in Coor's field is considered has a significant impact on wRC+

    • ScrapTheNickname, TopGunn#22, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this
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Major League Ready
Jan 10 2021 08:57 AM

Trading good prospects for 1 year rentals is horrible asset management. In this particular case, the asset is a SS and the free agent market has multiple good options this year and next. I am assuming the cost of the free agent SSs is going to be suppressed this year between 2021 revenue concerns and big market teams waiting for several great options to become available next year. 

    • Dman, DocBauer, jrod23 and 1 other like this

I have said from beginning, if the price is right you sign him.You have possible internal replacements so not like you will miss out on signing someone else who is a DH if you sign him to a spot.However, if you pay too much to where you feel you need to ride him no matter how he does then that is a mistake.  

 

Basically, the front office needs to decide, what is the number they will be willing to just let go if father time finally wins.If Cruz falls off the cliff, you cut him and be fine with the loss of the money.The main question will be, how much that is, and will Cruz accept it?

 

That is always the issue for mid-market teams, if they invest too much money into players that just are not that good, can you walk away from the contract?Even big market teams run into those issues with mega contracts.Albert in LA is one that comes to mind.He has been basically replacement or worse for 5 years now, but he makes too much money for team to just cut him. 

 

It makes little sense, you are paying him so much, and he is worse than an average player, why pay him to make your team worse?His last 4 years he has had a negative war, but made over 100 mil.That is a big price to pay for negative war.So that contract cost them in WAR and he makes so much you feel you cannot cut him and pay a replacement, so it cost you double.  

 

As long as the Twins will not put themselves in the that type of situation, bring Cruz back.He does have value in club house, from all reports, and that is something to consider too. 

    • TopGunn#22 likes this

*Throws holy water at Cody Pirkl*. THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!!

    • TopGunn#22 and MN_ExPat like this

"If Cruz falls off the cliff, you cut him and be fine with the loss of the money.The main question will be, how much that is, and will Cruz accept it?"

 

If it was this easy I'd agree. The problem is, how long does he suck before you know he's toast and not just slumping? And if you start the season with him, what impact on the team when you cut him mid-season? There are too many ways for this to go wrong. Also, we do have other needs and other options at DH. It just looks to me like too much risk. 

Was all for signing him as long as it is one year or a second option year that doesn't have to be exercised if he doesn't perform to X in 2021. But you list so many reasons that I have to wonder if signing him is the wrong decision?

 

What I do know is that this front office is very patient and will wait for the right deal to come to them. Will be interesting to see what those deals are come opening day, related to Mr. Cruz and others.

    • DocBauer likes this

We have enough hitters, we still need a SP and a RP - that is more important than the SS upgrade or the DH signing.  

    • shimrod, yeahyabetcha and Greglw3 like this

I guess there's no rush as long as no other movements are being made.Just frustrating as a fan because it's what we crave in the offseason...especially with no Twinsfest!!!

Everyone has very valid arguments that I guarantee the front office has thought of.What's the value of signing Cruz if you knew he was going to the Sox say we didn't sign him?That worth a few more million?  

If the Twins can sign Cruz to a similar deal to what they did in 2019 I think they should do it 100%. Cruz provides a very valuable, steady presence to the lineup. Look at all the hitters around him in the lineup in 2019 and 2020. Did any of them provide consistency even close to what Cruz did? Kepler went from .252/.336/.519 in 2019 to .228/.321/.439 in 2020. Sano went from .247/.346/.576 in 2019 to.204/.278/.478 in 2020. Buxton provided some offensive stability in those 2 years going from .262/.314/.513 in 2019 to .254/.267/.577, but everybody knows about Buxton's injuries and his inability to consistently play long stretches of games. 

 

Let's look at Cruz's numbers in those 2 years. 2019: .311/.392/.639. 2020: .303/.397/.595. Forget about being the Twins best, most consistent hitter in those two years, he was also one of MLB's best, most consistent hitters in that time frame. Is he old compared to the league average? Of course. Was he old compared to the league average in 2019 and 2020? Yes he was. 

 

The Twins need a stable presence in their lineup especially now when they have some rookies coming up and they have other guys who have shown they can't replicate their numbers year over year. History shows Cruz can provide that stable presence. Resign him. 

    • TopGunn#22, Otwins, specialiststeve and 2 others like this
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specialiststeve
Jan 10 2021 02:38 PM

Cruz and the Twins are waiting to see about the DL in the NL.... if it does go... Cruz will have many suitors and likely will not be back... if it is a no go we can go with a 2 year deal with a mutual option on year two.... at a reasonable price. 

 

We have other in house options if he does not return as well as a ton of FA that will be looking for jobs. 

 

More importantly we need to secure a SS and let Polanco be our super utility guy. Best for him and best for the team. Also have to work on one more starter and 3-4 more relief pitchers. 

 

We are in a VERY good spot so we should all relax and let our FO continue to do a great job. Patience at this point is in the Twins favor.... 

    • TopGunn#22, Dman and LanceJS like this

The reason I make a trade for Story is that i think he's head and shoulders better than Baez, Semien and Simmons.I'd rather trade for Story over Baez (even with the "connection" between Baez and Berrios) because he's right there with Baez defensively and he's just flat out a better hitter.

I'd rather "SIGN" the SS (Semien, Simmons) from a standpoint of saving assets to improve other weak links on the roster.

Simmons is who I prefer because he's THE most elite defender at SS in baseball.  

He's also the most injury prone and while not an offensive liability is a #8, #9 hitter on the Twins.

Keep Cruz until he burns out. Make him a member of the coaching staff when he begins to rust. He is still a stud.
    • h2oface likes this
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Cap'n Piranha
Jan 11 2021 11:20 AM

I would be ok with keeping Cruz next year, or even the year after (depending on what happens this year--I'd be very surprised if Cruz gets a two year contract where the second year isn't a vesting year based on performance, or a straight up team option).That being said, I'm also good with not bringing him back--for a few reasons;

  • There are some worrisome numbers in Cruz' profile.In his amazing 2019 season, Cruz had a hard hit rate of 52.5%--that's 10 percentage points higher than any other season in his career (other than his 2005 debut season, where he only played 8 games).In 2020, his pull rate dropped to it's lowest since 2007, and his swinging strike rate was the highest since 2009.His contact rate was also his lowest since 2009, his zone contact rate was his lowest since 2015, and his HR/FB rate was his highest ever (again by 10 percentage points).
  • Everyone comes back to Earth eventually.Some people slowly decline, and therefore have soft landings.Others don't decline, and therefore drop like a rock.With someone who's declining, you can mitigate it by sitting them against tough same-sided pitching, or giving them more days completely off, or extra time at DH.Nelson, unfortunately is in the second category--when he falls off, it will be sharp and sudden, mostly because he hasn't declined in his late 30's like most players.
  • Keeping Cruz at DH limits the Twins ability to be flexible.Without Cruz taking 90 to 90 percent of the DH PA's, you can give your players more rest, particularly your injury prone ones like Buxton, Donaldson, and Arraez while still keeping their bats in the lineup.

I can't understand why everyone seems to be giving up on Cruz. He was the ONLY Twin to get more than 1 hit in the playoffs and the only one to get an extra base hit. So much for the second half slump. Over 162 (or whatever) games, he can be rested enough to be fresher in the last half. I don't know his stats in the last half of the '19 season but he did ok in the loss to the Yankees. We need pitching more than anything and that should be the focus. If the NL decides to have the DH, Cruz may become too expensive but that will come later.

How about a trade ? Buxton for LeMahieu?
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Major League Ready
Jan 11 2021 01:08 PM

 

How about a trade ? Buxton for LeMahieu?

 

How do we trade for a free agent?

    • ashbury and Physics Guy like this
The Twins have needs, of course, to still address. But they also need a bat and not just a SS with offensive ability/potential. And with a super slow off-season and ST only 5 weeks away barring a change to delay, most every team still has moves to make a d rosters to flesh out. And, as of now, there is NO DH for the NL. Yes, that could yet change last minute, especially if they use it as leverage to gain something else such as a shorter season, etc.

IF, there is no sudden NL DH addition, Cruz has little to no market. IF MLB suddenly shifts gears and add the DH, there still aren't 15 teams added as suitors. There will still be teams with enough depth to not need a 41yo DH, or up against a payroll wall, or simply re-building and have no room or need.

I WANT Cruz back on a 1yr because I think they need a bat, I think he has ONE MORE really good year left in him, though I would expect some slippage of his total OPS. And one more year of his experience and leadership is a good thing. I see multiple ways he fits in $ for 2021 even with additions to be made, but won't go in to all of them right now.

Why I DON'T want Cruz back is because the Twins CAN afford to wait for a few bargains to fall to them, but CAN'T wait for EVERYONE in order to complete their 2021 roster! Trade or FA, they need to bring a SP in while still needing to bring a decent bat in. And they are primed to add a SS and have 3 FA options that don't cost prospects.

Further, unless Rooker, Larnach or Kirilloff are involved in a trade...and I hope they aren't but we can survive if any of them are...the Twins have a nice glut of options to handle OF/DH/1B along with Sano and Donaldson spending time at DH.

Think about this for a moment: The Twins actually trade for a SP. Let's say Musgrove, which makes sooo much sense. No guarantee, but he could really thrive with an organizational change and better coaching. The Pirates know the Twins system and said trade COULD include Larnach or Rooker, but COULD also include something like a ready made OF like Cave, Enlow or Canterino plus an OF like Wallner or Urbina, etc. BOTH teams win.

Suddenly, the Twins have their SP addition with $23-28M to spend IF the $125-130M IS reality. (I'm still doubting that). So you bring in your FA SS for $12-14M. That's another $9-11M for one more "proven" BP arm and and another 11th man INF and even a possible OF in a market deep in all 3 spots.

Sound crazy? Maybe. But think something like Clippard and Cabrera for $5M total. Now you can look at something like $4-6M for Bradley or Pillar.

The Twins COULD do a $135-140M which I'm still betting on. Where there is smoke, there is fire. If so, NOW you have the ability to sign Cruz or Brantley, etc.

But no Cruz, do you like the team as presented?

I agree with you Cody. Too many other needs. And in a practical sense, they had Crus the last two years and didn’t even win one playoff game.

 

Arraez and Polanco as IF depth sounds far superior to Adrianza and Marwin, both below average MLers.

 

You laid out a good case. The rotation is #1 priority and with erraticness of Buxton and Kepler, I think Michael Brantley would help and could easily get over 500 ABs. We can’t rely on any farm system starters although maybe a Duran could break through. So two rotation spots to fill.

 

Bottom line, greatest HR hitting team of all time didn’t work in playoffs....I think a more balanced team is necessary, which is where Brantley will help. Fingers crossed. I still like Maikel Franco as insurance for Donaldson and Sano, badly needed.

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nicksaviking
Jan 12 2021 12:49 PM

I think the Twins should start treating their older, and/or historically injured batters similar to the way they treat the rotation. Just keep on hand plenty of bats and give them regular rest.

 

I'd say re-sign Cruz, but only plan on he, Sano, Buxton and Donaldson playing 100-120 games. Seems like a waste to pay those guys so much money to not play a full season, but I think the scheduled rest will do them good, plus it would open up plenty of opportunity for the young guys to play.

How do we trade for a free agent?

Sign LeMahieu; now he's ours. Release Buxton; now he's the free agent. Easiest trade evar. :)