Nelson Cruz has agreed to a two-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, including a team option on the second year, according to Jeff Passan. The first year of the contract is worth $14 million, while the second year is $12 million with a $300,000 buyout.
The Twins had a very disappointing 2018, winning just 78 games. They finished 13 back of the division-winning Cleveland Indians after making the wildcard game in 2017. Franchise legend Joe Mauer has retired, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have disappointed, but the Twins are going for it again this offseason, as shown by this deal.
Logan Morrison, Mauer and Robbie Grossman all played plenty of games at designated hitter last season. Cruz will give stability to the role, and add yet more home runs to a line-up that has already been bolstered by the arrivals of Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron this winter.
Cruz has hit more homers than anyone else in the Major Leagues across the last five seasons, including 37 last season as he became an All-Star for a sixth time. Cron passed the 30 dinger mark last term, while Schoop did the same in 2017.
With all three on short-term deals, though, Minnesota still have roster flexibility, and the option to deal any of the trio if the season does not go to plan. Buxton, Sano and Max Kepler all need to have strong years for the Twins to be a real threat, even in the weak American League Central, but acquiring Cruz certainly increases their chances, while the Indians continue to fiddle with their roster and the White Sox are still waiting on prospects and are yet to make any big moves.
There is a definite swing towards shorter deals in free agency. Landing a player like Cruz is a good example of how this can benefit small market teams. There’s nothing to lose on their part – at the very least, they have bought some prospects if they flip Cruz at the deadline.
Minnesota have a long way to go to be anything other than outsiders in the AL Central. With Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer potentially on their way out of Cleveland, though, it’s not impossible to see a genuine contest atop the division, unlike last season.
The Twins have reacted to Cleveland’s winter plans, and it could revitalise the division after a dismal 2018 season.