As the twins’ miserable season continues, there has been increasing talk that they will be acting as a deadline seller over the next three weeks. Almost all participants will ask about Jose Berrios. There has been speculation about the availability of Taylor Rogers. Josh Donaldson has been connected Mets. Michael Pineda is a pending free agent that can help a lot of rotations.
Over the next few weeks though Nelson Cruz will be one of the most effective trade candidates to be monitored. The seemingly timeless slugger has another excellent season cutting 0.299 / .372 / .553 (147 wRC +) with 18 home runs, 11 doubles and his first triple since 2018. Cruz’s 18.8 percent knockout rate is the lowest it has been since 2010 He just celebrated his 41st birthday, but he remains one of the game’s biggest threats at the record.
Cruz is a free agent at the end of the season and is playing the 2021 campaign out on a one-year contract of $ 13 million. At the time of writing, there is about $ 6 million left to be paid out on that pact. When the deadline runs around, Cruz will owe about $ 4.5 million for the rest of the season.
A bat of the Cruz caliber will certainly be in demand, but perhaps not to the extent one could imagine at first glance. As a pure designated hitter, he faces a more limited market than most trade candidates.
A National League club could technically acquire Cruz for DH during interleague games and act as a very overqualified pinch hitter, but it is unlikely that anyone will put Cruz in the field with any regularity. He has not played an inning in defense since 2018 and has only 54 innings in the field since the end of the 2016 campaign. It’s hard never to rule anything out as front offices are getting more and more creative, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that if Cruz moves, it will be to an American league club.
Of course, not all 14 American league clubs will be in play. None of the Rangers, Royals, Tigers or Orioles are in conflict. The angels will not displace Shohei Ohtani from the DH plug, neither do the Astros Yordan Alvarez. The Yankees have Giancarlo Stanton serves as a primary DH. The Red Sox are enjoying the death of a resurgence JD Martinez campaign. The Indians have it Franmil Reyes, and the twins may not want to send Cruz to a divisional competitor.
On that note, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a decent fit with the AL Central’s leading White Sox. Yermin Mercedes faded significantly after a violent start to the season and was selected for Triple-A this week. Then again, the Sox have Eloy Jimenez on a rehab assignment and he will likely see at least some time at DH as he eases back into the mix after surgery to repair a ruptured breast. It’s also generally hard to imagine the Twins trading Cruz to the White Sox to help the South Siders seal a division title that Minnesota originally hoped to fight for.
There are a few clubs that look like the clearest fit if the twins move Cruz. Here’s a look at what each of these teams has received from the DH site in its lineup in 2021, followed by a more in-depth look at the potential fit.
- Athletics: .220 / .289 / .381, 88 wRC +
- Rays: .226 / .314 / .411, 103 wRC +
- Blue Jays: .240 / .321 / .429, 104 wRC +
- Seafarers: .237 / .320 / .421, 108 wRC +
Athletics: No competitor in the American League could use a DH upgrade more than Oakland. Offseason signing of Mitch Moreland has resulted in a .238 / .286 / .388 battle line through 175 record appearances to date. As a team, A’s ranked 12th in the MLB with 394 runs – 94 fewer runs than the MLB-leading Astros, coincidentally the team Oakland chases in the division.
The issue with the As is, as always, a wage capacity. For most of this previous offseason, it looked like the A’s would not spend much of anything on the 2021 list. Their late signing of Moreland, Sergio Romo, Yusmeiro Small and Trevor Rosenthal increased payroll up to $ 86 million. – still well below the league average, but not quite the bad levels seen in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Cleveland. Whether ownership will pay out millions more to rent Cruz for two plus months remains to be seen, but even if the salary is considered steep, the A’s could always pay a little more in terms of capital to get Minnesota to cover some (or all) of the contract.
Rays: The financial element is perhaps even more notable with the Rays currently operating at just $ 62 million. Salary list. Tampa Bay also has a better internal option than Oakland in terms of Austin Meadows. The 26-year-old Meadows can and has played a corner kick out this season, but the Rays have more defensively gifted options in Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Randy Arozarena and Brett Phillips.
Meadows has been the club’s primary designated hit this year, logging 53 percent of Rays’ total DH record appearance. By and large, Meadows has been a prolific hitter with a .243 / .335 / .485 stroke line, 16 home runs, 23 doubles and a triple. However, he has been stuck in a stretch at the plate, hitting .231 / .300 / .374 over the last month. Cruz is an upgrade even over Meadows at his absolute best, but Rays’ need “for Cruz feels less acute than athleticism.
Blue Jays: Adding Cruz to a lineup that already has features Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer and Marcus Semien does not feel right. Bringing Cruz into the fold is likely to push Randal Grichuk back in a fourth outfielder role behind Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez. Early in the year, it would have been hard to justify taking that bat from Grichuk. He got off to a blistering start, hitting .289 / .322 / .497 through the first two months. However, as the calendar turns to June, Grichuk hits .220 / .244 / .423 with a 29.1 percent turnout in 127 appearances.
The Jays’ priority for this point has been the bullpen, and it will likely remain a focal point for general manager Ross Atkins. That said, it never hurts to strengthen an already potent lineup further. If the prospect’s award for Cruz is to the Jays’ liking, they’re one of the few AL clubs to both fight and have an easy way to carve out regular at-bats for “Boomstick”. Unlike A and Rays, money should not be an issue for them.
Seafarers: A Cruz reunion trip with an unexpected challenger in Seattle would create a fun story for the final months of the season. Seattle is far from a locks after the season, but the Mariners are four games over .500 and only three and a half games out of a wildcard spot. Much of the focus around the sailors has been on whether they want to trade Mitch Haniger, but if they continue their hot streak – they are 15-7 over their last 22 games – this is a club that could actually look to add some pieces.
The focus for Seattle would likely be on more controllable players who can help in 2022 and beyond. Starting pitching in particular will be the seafarers’ primary wish – as manager Scott Servais suggested this week. If seafarers can acquire Cruz without paying a price that they feel will compromise a very promising long-term perspective, he is a sensible upgrade. The move would be overwhelmingly popular with fans, and the Mariners have nonetheless taken a potpourri approach on designated hitter this year. Ty France leads the team with just 100 appearances as DH, but he could be regularly put in the lineup at first base / second base for the balance in the 2021 campaign.