Santa was a little late this year for Twins fans, but he arrived nontheless, and with quite the present.
Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Twins have come to an agreement with free agent slugger Nelson Cruz on a one year deal with a team option.
The deal will be worth a guaranteed $14.3 Million, coming from a $14 million one year deal for 2019 and a $12 million club option (with a $300,000 buyout) for 2020.
The signing of Cruz adds a major impact bat into the middle of the Twins lineup that features a number of reclamation projects.
Cruz had a down year in 2018 but still hit an impressive .256/.342/.509 with 37 home runs and a 135 OPS+. Those numbers are the lowest OPS and OPS+ Cruz has posted since 2013. In 2017 Cruz hit .288/.375/.549 with 39 home runs.
Cruz has only played 9 games in the outfield since the beginning of 2017 but did start 48 games in rightfield in 2016 and 80 games there in 2015. Cruz will start the year at 38 years of age and will mostly play DH, but he should be more than capable of playing in Right Field when needed, especially with some combination of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, and Jake Cave roaming the other outfield positions.
With the addition of Cruz, here is a possible opening day lineup for the Minnesota Twins:
SS - Jorge Polanco (S)
LF - Eddie Rosario (L)
DH - Nelson Cruz (R)
3B - Miguel Sano (R)
1B - CJ Cron (R)
RF - Max Kepler (L)
2B - Jonathan Schoop (R)
C - Jason Castro/Mitch Garver (L/R)
CF - Byron Buxton (R)
OF - Jake Cave (L)
C - Castro/Garver (L/R)
IF - Ehire Adrianza (S)
For years the Twins have been fairly lefty-dominant, but with the current lineup construction that changes quite a bit. Lefty pitchers will have issues with Cruz - Sano - Cron hitting in the middle of the lineup, and Schoop potentially acting as protection behind Kepler.
That does mean, of course, that the lineup will likely be a tad weaker against right handed pitching which is far more common. Still, there is massive power potential, with Cruz, Cron, and Schoop all having 30 homer seasons in the recent past and Sano, Rosario, and Kepler each having hit 20+ homers in their past as well.
The signing of Cruz does likely mean the end of Tyler Austin’s Twins tenure, as he is out of options and is unlikely to earn the final bench spot as a platoon 1B/DH, considering the team’s righthandedness already. The signing also means that utlizing Sano or Cron as a DH will mean taking at bats away from some combination of Cruz, Kepler, or Cave.
The deal is a very fair one for the Twins, who are not paying that much considering the production Cruz has offered the last few years. The team option provides some insurance due to age-related decline, but even another decent season like Cruz’s 2018 will likely make the $12 million team option a steal for 2020 if the Twins look to keep Cruz. The deal is also very tradeable if Cruz has a good season but the Twins find themselves deeply out of contention by the trade deadline.
The Twins are likely done with additions to their lineup, and will now likely focus on relief help going in to spring training.