Joe Ryan's impact on the future
The Nelson Cruz for Joe Ryan trade should benefit the Twins for many years to come. This trade will give the Twins a quality pitcher for years, while only having to give up a 40-year-old Cruz whose career is on the decline. In return, the Twins acquired a player whose career is just getting started and will help the Twins compete for years to come.
Twins fans were sad to see fan-favorite, Nelson Cruz, get traded to Tampa Bay at the 2021 trade deadline. Cruz was a part of the 2019 Bomba Squad where he slashed .311/.392/.639 and hit 41 homers. He was a huge piece of the 101-61 first-place Twins. In 2020 Cruz slashed .303/.397.595 with 16 homers in 53 games and helped the Twins claim another first-place finish. During his time in Minnesota, Cruz finished 9th in MVP voting in 2019 and finished 6th in voting in 2020. In 2021 the Twins were struggling and at the time of the trade were sitting at 41-56. They decided there needed to be a change in the roster, so they flipped Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher in exchange for Joe Ryan and Drew Stroman. When Cruz got to Tampa he slashed .226/.238.442 with 13 homers. The Rays traded for Cruz to help them make a deep run in the playoffs and they ended up falling in the ALDS to the Red Sox. In free agency Cruz tested the market and signed a one year deal for $15 million with the Nationals. With them he slashed .234/.313/.337 with 10 Homers. Now Cruz signed a 1 year deal for $1 million with the Padres and with Cruz being 42, his career is going to come to a close soon.
The prospects in the deal are minor pieces so I won't spend much time on them. The Rays acquired Calvin Faucher. At the time of the trade, Faucher had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30⅔ innings for Double-A Wichita. He was selected in the 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017. Last year at the major league level he went 2-3 with an ERA of 5.48 in 21.1 IP. The player the Twins acquired was Drew Stroman. At the time of the trade, Strotman had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58⅓ innings with the Durham Bulls. He was the Rays 17th-ranked prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017. In 2022 the Twins DFA'd Strotman and he was later claimed off waivers by the Rangers. This offseason he signed a deal with the Giants.
Now let's talk about the major piece acquired for the Twins-Joe Ryan. At the time of the trade, Ryan was a 25-year-old who was about to pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics. He had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Durham Bulls, the Rays AAA team. MLB.com put him in the No. 10 spot in Tampa Bay's system.. Ryan joined the Twins at the 2021 trade deadline and in that time he made five starts at the end of the season with 30 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. Now the 26-year-old pitcher is coming off a very good season last year where he went 13-8 with a 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts. He also impressed with His Hard Hit%, xERA/xwOBA, xBA, and K%. They all ranked in the 63rd percentile or higher. Ryan also set the Twins’ single-season rookie record for strikeouts. Over his last 9 starts, Ryan was impressive and had a 2.81 ERA. There were some bumps in the road with Ryan last year such as how he allowed a .500+ SLG on every pitch but his fastball last season. He’s allowed an SLG% of .531 on his slider with a .368 expected SLG%. His .538 SLG% on his changeup is not a good number compared to his .443 expected SLG%. His curveball struggled last year with a .524 SLG compared to a .354 expected SLG. It is important to remember he is a fastball-reliant pitcher with him using it 60.1% of the time. With his fastball, he has allowed a .183 BA against and a .328 slugging %. With the Twins trading for Pablo Lopez, this year, I believe it will benefit Ryan as he doesn't have to focus on being the Twins front-end guy. He can build off of a good rookie season and help the Twins compete for years to come. It is important to remember that Ryan is just coming off his first full MLB season last year. He is young and still needs time to develop and reach his true potential. If he can improve his off speed numbers he could be a front-end starter for years to come.
The Twins currently have team control of Ryan through the 2027 season. While Cruz was a fan favorite and it was sad to see him go, trading him sets the Twins up for success in the years to come.