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  • Twins to Trade Slugger, This One Hurts


    Ted Schwerzler

    Flashback to 2011 and the Minnesota Twins found themselves at 41-48 when the All-Star Break took place. Just a few weeks later, they were a dismal 55-75 shipping Jim Thome to Cleveland. It’s happening again, but Nelson Cruz will hurt worse.

    Image courtesy of © Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Don’t get me wrong, I remember Thome’s time with the Twins fondly. His first season, the year Target Field opened, the slugger that tormented Minnesota for all those years put up a 1.039 OPS across 108 games. A year later he’d record his 600th career home run, only further cementing his place in Cooperstown. Thome was adopted as the Twins lumberjack, and his power played in the role perfectly.

    When Thome was dealt however, it was clear this was the beginning of the end. Not only did the Twins stink, but he’d lost over 200 points on his OPS from the year prior and sending him to a mediocre Cleveland club was about a proper sendoff as much as it was an asset acquisition. He’d make stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore during 2012, but the end came just 58 games into his season.

    At the end of the day, Thome was an integral part of a very good 2010 club, but then watched as the age counter flipped to 40 and Father Time proved undefeated yet again.

    Enter Minnesota’s current designated hitter. Nelson Cruz has now played 247 games in a Twins uniform. That’s roughly 50 games more than Thome, but Cruz went through the shortened 2020 season stunting that growing total. He was the unquestioned leader of the Bomba Squad, a club that hit a Major League record 307 dingers. Despite playing for the organization between ages 38-41, he’s compiled a .307/.389/.607 slash line and 75 homers across that stretch. Age notwithstanding, he’s been among baseball’s best in his latest years.

    When Derek Falvey ultimately deals Cruz later this month, it will feel different as well. He’s not going back to Seattle or Texas. This isn’t a sendoff and Cruz isn’t riding off into the sunset. Two likely landing spots include the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays. Minnesota will be looking to maximize value, and Cruz will be counted upon as a lineup fixture. This is a true asset, no longer a privilege for Minnesota to enjoy because the 2021 season fell flat.

    It’d be silly to assume that Cruz will continue this level of production for another decade. Even another couple of years would be unprecedented. What he’s doing now though, is something that any contending team needing a designated hitter should covet. That makes his market limited in that half the league is then cut in half again, but you can bet that suitors will fight for his services.

    There’s also not going to be a reunion tour. Minnesota and Cruz’s camp played a staring contest this winter. Neither wanted to blink first, but a return always seemed to be the best fit for both sides. As the Twins head into 2022 with uncertainty, the luxury of a big money designated hitter doesn’t seem reasonable. On top of that, we won’t know the direction chosen by the front office until July 31 comes and goes with Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios, and Josh Donaldson still wearing Twins threads.

    When the dust settles on this eventual move the Twins will have dealt one of the best power hitters ever to wear a Minnesota uniform. While Cruz’s time was ultimately brief, the impact (and especially that felt in 2019) will be talked about for years to come. Nelson was a late blooming player that never stopped getting better, has continued to impart wisdom on the game’s next generation, and his absence will sting more than just a bad team shedding moveable parts.

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    When they first got him I didn't think it was the greatest move.  He was getting older but our DH spot the year before was so terrible I could see he would be an upgrade, but I never thought he would be better than advertised.  The guy is just amazing at the plate and such a good presence on the team.  A class act you name it.  Honestly if teams stop throwing balls at him I think he might hit into his late 40's.  He will be missed but he will get a chance at playoff baseball.  I wish him the best and will always have fond memories of what he did for the Twins. 

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    Cruz wanted a two year contract, and said he wanted to spend some time this year playing in the field.

    Does he have to OK any traide?

    He likes it here, that is obvious and right now Cruz, Donaldson, Polanco and Simmons are the main reason the team is not challenging the Diamondbacks for the bottom rung.

    If he does not come back next year, this will seem like the good old days.

    Twins will get nothing even near his level of performance, and a gaggle of wannbes is getting less than zero.

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    1 hour ago, Dman said:

    When they first got him I didn't think it was the greatest move.  He was getting older but our DH spot the year before was so terrible I could see he would be an upgrade, but I never thought he would be better than advertised.  The guy is just amazing at the plate and such a good presence on the team.  A class act you name it.  Honestly if teams stop throwing balls at him I think he might hit into his late 40's.  He will be missed but he will get a chance at playoff baseball.  I wish him the best and will always have fond memories of what he did for the Twins. 

    Dman:  Excellent take on Cruz.  Beyond his production, his professionalism and tutelage of younger players will be missed a great deal.  Hopefully he'll be able to experience some playoff success.  He certainly deserves it.

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    This is a trade that is inevitable.  I've LOVED his time here and will probably root for whatever team gets him in the post season, but this year just didn't work out for the Twins.  Move Nellie to a contender and get something back that could help us in a year or two.  I'm not expecting a 1987 Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz return (remember, Alexander went 10-1 for the Tigers) but the Twins should get something "useful" for Nellie.  

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    It is sad to see our best batter go (and we are assuming he will) when we actually have some players like Donaldson who would not be missed.  The end of the career shifts from Aaron to the Brewers, Thome to Cleveland...are part of baseball's tradition.  The old win every year Yankees made a history of picking up Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter and other players who suddenly blossomed for a good ending in pin stripes.  I wish we could ask Cruz where he would like to go. 

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    Over the next three weeks injuries and standings will determine if there is a market for Cruz. A team like Toronto or Seattle could use him. Cruz would be easily worth it to the team if it were contending for something other than a wild card game.  

    On the other hand, if Cruz can keep up 90% of his current production for 2 more years as a Twin, which cap does he get in Cooperstown?

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    3 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Because a lottery ticket is better than nothing.

    Dietrich Enns was not better than nothing. Aaron Rozak might be better than nothing. The Twins gave up nothing to get him

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