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A Reunion with Nelson Cruz Still Makes Sense


Adding offensive help may not be the highest priority for the Twins this offseason. Still the Twins may want to pursue one option for DH, and not just any option; a reunion with Nelson Cruz. 

Over the last two-and-a-half years, Nelson Cruz quickly became a fan favorite for Minnesota Twins fans and a leader both on and off the field for the Twins. Upsetting as it was for Twins fans to see him be traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in July, it was not unexpected. And so far, the return for Cruz from the Rays with Joe Ryan has looked promising for the Twins.

Cruz once again joins the free agent market for the third time in the last four offseasons. The largest difference with this offseason compared to the previous when Cruz was a free agent is the possibility that 15 more teams could be in contention to sign him if the designated hitter is added into the National League in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

Until the results of the next CBA are announced, the Twins do remain one of the top American League teams in contention to go after Cruz. The other two AL teams that are looking to be contenders to sign Cruz this offseason are former teams of his as well; the Rays and Seattle Mariners. 

With these contenders in consideration for Cruz, the question that remains for all of them is who will be the most committed to offering Cruz the salary he deserves? Over the last three seasons, Cruz’s salary has ranged between the $12-$14 million range. MLB Trade Rumors has Cruz listed on their top 50 free agents with the prediction he will earn $12 million on his next contract. 

Spending wise, the Twins likely could afford Cruz for $12 million while still having the budget to pursue high-end free agent starting pitchers. Last offseason the Twins re-signed Cruz to a one-year $13 million contract. Not counting Cruz’s 2021 salary, the Twins also have $37.5 million freed up from players no longer on the roster. This includes players who were on one-year deals as well as the expiration of Michael Pineda’s contract. 

Affordability of Cruz is not a question for the Twins like it is for the Rays. The larger question for the Twins with re-signing Cruz, is if they still see him as a stronger presence for the team both inside the clubhouse and in their lineup?

Cruz’s power numbers showed no sign of regressing in 2021 as he turned 41 in July.  He hit 32 home runs, drove in 86 runs, and posted a .832 OPS. Cruz’s overall batting average dipped below .287 for only the second time since 2015, however, he only hit .226 in 55 games with the Rays. That may be a concern for some, but for someone going into their age 41-42 season, Cruz is still seen as an elite hitter. Even if Cruz does show some signs of regression, there is still hope that in the Twins lineup Cruz could hit anywhere from 25-30 home runs and drive in 75-90 runs with an OPS over .800.

As a presence in the clubhouse, Cruz has unquestionably been the leader for many Twins players since he first arrived in Minnesota in 2019. Many players floated to him for advice over his two-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota. His bond with Miguel Sano has been crucial to Sano’s own success as a hitter. So much so that Cruz is the godfather of Sano’s first daughter. With the majority of starting position players from 2019-2021 still on the Twins, it may make sense for everyone’s benefit to reunite Cruz with his former teammates.

Ruling out National League teams for now as they have not officially earned the DH role for the 2022 season, the Twins biggest competition to re-signing Cruz is Seattle. The Mariners have only four guaranteed contracts going into 2022 and their highest paid player is Marco Gonzalez at $5.75 million. The Mariners young up-and-coming players certainly could use the leadership of Nelson Cruz, and their offense would improve greatly toward another 90 win season with Cruz in it. 

The Twins top priority in free agency should remain starting pitching. However if they are to go after one batter this offseason, it should be a reunion with Cruz. The main thing currently that could keep the Twins from resigning Cruz is the Mariners having more payroll flexibility. If the Mariners or a National League team end up signing Cruz, the Twins still have plenty of DH options to work with, most notably Josh Donaldson as he saw more time there in 2021. Still, a reunion with Cruz would be a treat all around for the Twins clubhouse and their fans. 

What do you think? Should the Twins bring back Nelson Cruz in 2022? Comment below!

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If you rade-off a bunch of guys on the roster...maybe.

 

You have Garver who can DH and play 1B...Jeffers/Rortvedt catching at least half the games next season.

 

You have Sano who should be a fulltime DH, because Kirilloff can play 1B, as can Garver.

 

You have Donaldson, who needs time off the third base bag, which is why Miranda may make the roster out of spring training. And, you need a place for Arraez if the Twins get anotehr shortstop, which may be a higher priority than a DH.

 

And you have to make a decision on Rooker, who could bring a big bat to the lineup if given just one more chance.

 

Of course, I would look at offers for Donaldson, Sano, Garver, Arraez...and even Rooker if anyone wants him, not to mention Kepler...which means the Twins COULD use a vet presence like Cruz on the bench. Plus Cruz NEEDS to play at least two more seasons and has the drive to run towards 500 home runs.

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52 minutes ago, Theo Tollefson said:

A Reunion with Nelson Cruz Still Makes Sense

BREAKING: According to sources, the Twins have reserved a local picnic shelter in anticipation of a reunion with Nelson Cruz. Evites will be sent out soon. As is customary for the Twins, the event will be BYOB.

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Sorry, I don’t see the fit anymore. I’ll look back fondly on his tenure here. He is the best free agent signing Falvey and Levine have made. But all good things come to an end. If he ever wants to get into coaching after his playing days are over, I hope he considers the Twins. 

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Doesn't seem like putting limited discretionary money toward a relative strength is the most impactful way to invest.  With that being said - if we somehow turn his signing into another trade deadline acquisition like Ryan you might squint and see a win-win situation.

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Cruz was the best player signed in the last 20 years.  If only to have a "all-star" caliber player on the team.   Berrios is gone and Buxton most likely gone.  No one left to root for that you would at least even have name recognition outside of the minor league fans.

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36 minutes ago, Melissa77 said:

If the price was right I'd go for it. Name one young player, Rookers, Etc...that we can count on in 2022?

These isn't one who shows promise. 

What do we have to lose?? More baseball games?

 

Roster space. Opportunity. Budget. What's the point of bringing him back? 

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1 hour ago, Melissa77 said:

If the price was right I'd go for it. Name one young player, Rookers, Etc...that we can count on in 2022?

These isn't one who shows promise. 

What do we have to lose?? More baseball games?

 

Yep, .200 hitters on a good day, just what the Twins do not need.

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he hit low .200's after the trade is a telling sign for me.  Some will say change of scenery, living out of a suitcase as potential factors.  I say not so fast, when you get traded to a contender to make run for post season, his juices should have been flying high.  Liked him for what he was, but not for what he might be at a $10MM+ price tag.  Say hello to the national league for Cruz if DH gets implemented. 

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5 hours ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

BREAKING: According to sources, the Twins have reserved a local picnic shelter in anticipation of a reunion with Nelson Cruz. Evites will be sent out soon. As is customary for the Twins, the event will be BYOB.

And Pot Luck. I hear Thad is bringing a crock pot of sloppy joes

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I just don't see it as a good fit any longer. I love Nellie Cruz and he was great while he was here, but they need to invest money in SS and starting pitching (and hopefully a new contract for Buxton), and they have hitters who could use time at DH (Donaldson, Arraez, Sano, Garver especially but even Rooker, Larnach, and Kirilloff could see time there). We're better off doing DH by committee at this point and putting the money elsewhere. $12M gets you another guy for the rotation. Or two experienced relievers. More importantly, another $12M allows you go go big on a guy like Marcus Stroman after he turns down the initial offer...

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13 hours ago, Einheri said:

I love Nellie.
But we have no room for him unless many players are traded/dumped.

Who do we have that can hit like him?  I know there are position players and others who could "fill in" as a DH but we need a real one.  Maybe Sano but he seems to be fine for now in the field.  I would rather have Cruz any day!

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Glad to see the differing opinions here from everyone. I would love to see Nellie return but realistically, he likely won't. Seattle is the top American League team in need of Cruz at DH, and almost any NL team could take him on when the DH is implemented for the National League. Of course, being where he is in his career, I am sure Cruz also wants to get with a team that will be competitive and make it into the postseason this next season. 

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Cruz would fall into the Want category instead of the Needs.  We have too many Needs to consider putting significant money at something we Want when we have in-house options that while not as great as Cruz, allow us to spend our dollars elsewhere.  He's a luxury. 

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On 11/19/2021 at 8:23 AM, jmlease1 said:

I just don't see it as a good fit any longer. I love Nellie Cruz and he was great while he was here, but they need to invest money in SS and starting pitching (and hopefully a new contract for Buxton), and they have hitters who could use time at DH (Donaldson, Arraez, Sano, Garver especially but even Rooker, Larnach, and Kirilloff could see time there). We're better off doing DH by committee at this point and putting the money elsewhere. $12M gets you another guy for the rotation. Or two experienced relievers. More importantly, another $12M allows you go go big on a guy like Marcus Stroman after he turns down the initial offer...

You mean strike-outs by committee.

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