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Now’s the Time to Trade Nelson Cruz to this AL Team


It’s only the first week of June, but a lot can happen over the next two months. Minnesota should take advantage of their current record and start dealing away players with expiring contracts. Nelson Cruz is near the top of the list and here’s where he should be headed.

Without question, the Twins are going to be sellers at this year’s trading deadline and the result is going to be a lot of different trade rumors circling around veteran players in the weeks ahead. Last week, Tom explored an idea that would send Josh Donaldson to the Brewers in an intriguing trade scenario. Cruz will be a free agent at season’s end so his trade partners will be a little easier to identify.

First of all, the National League didn’t adopt the designated hitter for 2021, so this knocks out half of baseball’s teams right of the bat. In the American League, there are eight teams within six games of a Wild Card spot, but not all these team’s need a DH. The team at the top of the AL standings is one that has previously been interested in Cruz and the timing might be perfect for them add to the middle of their line-up.

Tampa Bay has fought their way into first place in the AL East in what might be considered baseball’s toughest division. Entering play on Monday, Boston was leading the Wild Card race with the Blue Jays and the Yankees both over .500 and in the playoff hunt. So, what’s the connection between Cruz and Tampa?

Back in 2018, Cruz was entering free agency as a 38-year-old, which doesn’t sound that intriguing. However, he had averaged over 40 home runs per season with a .897 OPS from 2014-2018. At the time, Tampa was hoping to offer Cruz a deal around $10 million. Minnesota’s offer was for $14 million in the first year with a $12 million club option in year two. The rest is history as he was named team MVP in both of his first two seasons with the club.

This past winter Tampa Bay had another opportunity to add Cruz to their line-up, but a strong market never really emerged for Cruz. Multiple teams were interested in his services, but the Twins seemed like his most logical destination from the start, especially with no NL DH. Tampa Bay, the defending AL pennant winners, rarely outbids other teams for free agents, but now might be their best opportunity to add him.

So far this season, Tampa Bay has rotated through two main players at DH, Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena. Meadows has played the most games at DH and he has hit .233/.328/.544 with 16 extra-base hits, while Arozarena has a .717 OPS in 13 games at DH. Meadows has some defensive flexibility as he can play in the outfield as well, so adding Cruz only enhances the middle of their line-up.

Entering the season, MLB.com ranked Tampa Bay as having baseball’s number one ranked farm system. This doesn’t mean the Twins are going to steal away one of the game’s best prospects, but the Rays have organizational depth and that can help any team looking to make a deal. The market for Cruz isn’t going to be large, but a trade between the Rays and Twins makes too much sense for it not to happen.

Do you think Cruz ends up in Tampa before the trade deadline? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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Logical fit and honestly the Twins can and SHOULD include cash given TB's payroll constraints. TB has so many legit prospects they have trouble keeping them all on their 40man roster! Getting 1 or 2 guys with some high upside or low level top 100 guy like Shane Baz for Cruz should be doable.

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I think Tampa's situation is such that they have too many guys for their positions already, and they love having flexibility.  Yes, they looked at Cruz prior to 2019, but three seasons of roster make-up has occurred since.  Would he improve their DH numbers?  Yes.  Would he improve their team?  That's not as certain.

I would think a more traditional team would look at Cruz, maybe the Red Sox, who could move JDM to right, or the Yankees, who will have enough injuries to justify it.  But it is a tough sell, unfortunately.

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7 hours ago, twinstalker said:

I think Tampa's situation is such that they have too many guys for their positions already, and they love having flexibility.  Yes, they looked at Cruz prior to 2019, but three seasons of roster make-up has occurred since.  Would he improve their DH numbers?  Yes.  Would he improve their team?  That's not as certain.

I would think a more traditional team would look at Cruz, maybe the Red Sox, who could move JDM to right, or the Yankees, who will have enough injuries to justify it.  But it is a tough sell, unfortunately.

JDM is not to be put in the field.  The Red Sox are one team I just can't imagine buying Cruz.

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Very interesting article,Cody! It makes sense now that we're basically out of it and TB could be an interesting trade partner.  I'm sure they are looking at trading many other players without shame of absolute tanking.

We too have a very big 40 man problem. With the flood of possible prospects, the loss of very good prospects will occur. 

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Good point about Oakland dbminn.  But I think Tampa is the BEST fit.  And I agree with Seansy, pay Cruz's salary for the rest of this season in full if it will upgrade the one or two prospects the Twins would receive in return.  That money was already budgeted for 2021...pay it and upgrade the talent level.  The current group of mis-fit toys needs competition !

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The issue with Tampa is they will not give up much of value for him.  Unless we get a bidding war in trades for Cruz I do not expect much in return for him.  He may have some interest but at best we will be getting a low level prospect that hopefully will be a diamond in the rough. 

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The Rays aren't the type of team who gives away prospects when they don't have to.  They are hitting very well this year.

I think every team in the AL that is over .500 at the moment would be interested in Cruz.  Tampa would certainly take him if the Twins were just giving him away, but the other teams might actually make a worthwhile deal.

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We’re going to read countless articles like this ready to give up on every veteran. For Cruz in particular, there’s an argument to be made that he has more value here mentoring young players and taking competitive PAs compared to the returning prospect.
 

Tampa, Oakland, or insert team name here isn’t going to give up much of anything for him. It’s why he came back last winter after sitting around until late in the winter. Are the Twins really in need of more A ball lottery tickets, or fringe players that need to be added to the 40 man? 
 

We recently had a fitting end to a sell off trade in 2018. Fernando Rodney flipped to the A’s for Dakota Chalmers. Boy was that fun having him on the 40 man for a year! And DFA’ing him before he makes his MLB debut. 

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Now is not the time. Maybe 45 days from now, but I think I am taking the other side of the argument and keeping him. He is the main mentor among the players in the clubhouse. We most obviously need all the mentors we can get. I'm looking for some meaningful, move the needle trades. Trading Cruz doesn't bring us help next year. 

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Why would Tampa replace a younger player  OPSing .872 that actually has a little positional flexibility with an almost 41 year old player OPSing .858?  We will get very little for Cruz...and I highly doubt it will be from Tampa Bay.  They have shown over the years that they are probably the smartest front office in baseball....

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22 minutes ago, In My La Z boy said:

Now is not the time. Maybe 45 days from now, but I think I am taking the other side of the argument and keeping him. He is the main mentor among the players in the clubhouse. We most obviously need all the mentors we can get. I'm looking for some meaningful, move the needle trades. Trading Cruz doesn't bring us help next year. 

Right.  Sell now if you want 110 losses and you want to put everyone's jobs in jeopardy while mucking up the revenue stream, making it that much harder to rebuild.  Bad plan.

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11 hours ago, Cody Christie said:

So far this season, Tampa Bay has rotated through two main players at DH, Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena. Meadows has played the most games at DH and he has hit .233/.328/.544 with 16 extra-base hits, while Arozarena has a .717 OPS in 13 games at DH.

I know there can be a "DH penalty" where players hit worse in that spot than when playing the field, but DH-only batting splits aren't particularly useful, especially in such small samples.

11 hours ago, Cody Christie said:

Meadows has some defensive flexibility as he can play in the outfield as well, so adding Cruz only enhances the middle of their line-up.

I'm not sure how this makes sense. Cruz only enhances the Tampa lineup if Meadows replaces a weak outfielder. And depending on how one views Kiermaier's CF defense relative to their other 3 outfielders, I'm not sure this would net much benefit for them.

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20 minutes ago, terrydactyls said:

The Rays have only gotten 3 home runs from their first basemen.  Package Cruz and Sano for some prospects (any prospects).

That could make sense IF Sano gains consistency between now and the deadline and they continue to get low production from first base and the twins are willing to eat a significant part of his salary.  I would like to find a package the Ray's like for Brujan has is ready to debut.  Maybe a 3 team team trade.  He could take over for Simmons right now and he has a 949 OPS at AAA.  The Rays have Franco waiting in the wings so they could move Brujan.

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Tampa's biggest weakness right now is not at DH or in the outfield (again, depending on how one views Kiermaier's CF defense relative to the other OF).

LHB 1B Ji-Man Choi is on the IL again, with an uncertain timeline for returning. RHB Yandy Diaz isn't bad, but his OBP-and-little-else batting line may not be a good everyday option there. And they already traded Tsutsugo. Tampa's top prospects are SS Franco and INF/OF Brujan, which can help just about everywhere except 1B.

Unless Cruz starts hitting like 2019-2020 again, I'd guess that Tampa would be better off getting a bat that can play 1B rather than an exclusive DH. Trey Mancini could be an excellent target, with a cheaper 2021 salary and 2022 control too. If KC decides to sell, Santana could be a target. Looks like SF may actually stick in the race, otherwise Belt would be in play. Cheaper targets would be Aguilar from MIA, etc.

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25 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

That could make sense IF Sano gains consistency between now and the deadline and they continue to get low production from first base and the twins are willing to eat a significant part of his salary.  I would like to find a package the Ray's like for Brujan has is ready to debut.  Maybe a 3 team team trade.  He could take over for Simmons right now and he has a 949 OPS at AAA.  The Rays have Franco waiting in the wings so they could move Brujan.

Brujan isn't even remotely possible as a target. He's the #22 prospect in MLB, per Fangraphs. Baseball Trade Values isn't gospel, but it pegs his median trade value at +41, compared to -18 (that's negative 18) for Sano. I don't think there's anything that Sano could do in less than 2 months to make up that gap, even if the Twins ate the full salary.

Mancini from BAL would be a better target. Trade value +20, Tampa could probably get him without giving up Brujan too. (They could also just buy a 1B glove for Brujan, he has played just about everywhere else so far at AAA.)

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36 minutes ago, spycake said:

Brujan isn't even remotely possible as a target. He's the #22 prospect in MLB, per Fangraphs. Baseball Trade Values isn't gospel, but it pegs his median trade value at +41, compared to -18 (that's negative 18) for Sano. I don't think there's anything that Sano could do in less than 2 months to make up that gap, even if the Twins ate the full salary.

Mancini from BAL would be a better target. Trade value +20, Tampa could probably get him without giving up Brujan too. (They could also just buy a 1B glove for Brujan, he has played just about everywhere else so far at AAA.)

I did not articulate where I was going with the 3 team scenario.  I would not suggest Sano would being even close for Brujan.  I was thinking sending assets which might include Berrios or even Buxton to a 3rd team who sent assets to Tampa to make it work.  It's a pipedream.  I was really just making the point I would love to get Brujan!   That's the kind of scenario where it makes sense to move Berrios or Buxton.  Damn TB with him and Franco and they signed Brujan for $15K.  People complain because we don't sign more $3M+ guys when we have a few and none of them have really panned out.  I want to see the Twins find a couple of these gems for nothing.

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17 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

I did not articulate where I was going with the 3 team scenario.  I would not suggest Sano would being even close for Brujan.  I was thinking sending assets which might include Berrios or even Buxton to a 3rd team who sent assets to Tampa to make it work.  It's a pipedream.  I was really just making the point I would love to get Brujan!   That's the kind of scenario where it makes sense to move Berrios or Buxton.  Damn TB with him and Franco and they signed Brujan for $15K.  People complain because we don't sign more $3M+ guys when we have a few and none of them have really panned out.  I want to see the Twins find a couple of these gems for nothing.

That's fair. Per Baseball Trade Values, Buxton (37.5) would be close to Brujan (41.1) straight up, although any valuation/projection for Buxton is going to have a crazy-ton of variance. Berrios is at 29.7.

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Saw Brujan play this week in Durham. Looked good at the plate, impressive speed, playing predominantly OF. Would love to have him but it would take a heavier package to land Buxton. Another kid that looked the part was centerfielder Josh Lowe though Norfolk hung 5 K's on him Tuesday. Franco should be in the bigs now.

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