At 40-years old, Nelson Cruz might have one last chance for a contract. If the universal DH returns, Cruz would have more potential suitors, including contenders with no set option at that position. However, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported in December that MLB had informed teams to “operate without the DH in the National League.”
If the universal DH vanishes, Cruz’s market decreases dramatically, limiting him to AL teams. It’s hard to picture the Dominican slugger finishing his career with a rebuilding team.
Two winters ago, Nelson Cruz chose the Minnesota Twins over the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays. He signed a one-year, $14 million contract that included a second-year option at $12-million. In the first year, the Boomstick hit .311/.392/.639, finishing ninth in AL MVP voting. Cruz delivered again in the second season, hitting .303/.397/.595 with 16 home runs while finishing sixth in AL MVP voting.
With dire needs across the board, the Twins have nearly ten free agents on the market. It’s understandable why they don’t want to commit too much to one player and hurt themselves in other areas.
But the question is how long can the Twins afford to wait for Cruz to make a decision? So far, the market hasn’t dictated much since few players have signed, so there’s still time.
He is not unique but essential enough to the Twins. Both sides have remained engaged in discussions with a mutual interest in a reunion. As long as the Twins stay in win-now mode, Cruz wants a return to the Twin Cities for another season or two. If not, the Twins have to be prepared for the possibility that they might have to move on from the player who anchored the lineup for two seasons.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox signed a Cruz-like player last season. Edwin Encarnacion came to Chicago on a $12 million deal, but he declined drastically. The White Sox need a dependable power bat at the designated hitter slot, and Nelson Cruz is someone who comes to mind.
White Sox fans don’t need a reminder of what Cruz has done to them. In ten games last season, he hit .368/.422/.711 with three homers and ten RBI. Plus, Cruz and the Twins won the AL Central, edging the South Siders by one game.
Adding one of the most dependable bats in the game is advantageous, but it could come at a cost. First base prospect Andrew Vaughn is nearly ready for the majors. The reigning AL MVP, Jose Abreu, also plays at first, serving as the designated hitter at times. The White Sox window to contend is open now. Cruz’s power would have the upper hand over Vaughn, whose pro experience is nothing higher than Single-A.
Taking the slugger away from their division rivals is a nightmare for Twins fans. However, it would make the White Sox lineup one of the most fearsome in the game. Signing Cruz would flip the AL Central balance, putting the White Sox on track for their must-win mode.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays emerged as a surprising team in 2020, and they are looking to make moves to get better in 2021.
They can make room for Cruz at designated hitter. All Toronto needs to do is move promising star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. back to third base. Guerro’s position shift would mean Rowdy Tellez would slot in at the first base. Then, on an odd day, give Cruz a day of rest and have someone else fill in as the designated hitter. The Blue Jays have options, and manager Charlie Montoyo isn’t hesitant to play around with the position from time-to-time.
General manager Ross Atkins insists that the team will be spenders this offseason. In what’s been a slow offseason so far, Toronto has signed Robbie Ray to a one-year, $8 million deal. Also, they claimed Anthony Castro off waivers from the Detroit Tigers. Having a player like Cruz on the team would mean a lot to the Blue Jays. If he decides to play for Toronto, he’ll bring strong leadership, and, given the Blue Jays’ willingness to spend money, there’s little reason to expect he would have to take a pay cut.
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