Letting Nelson Cruz Walk Would Be a Huge Mistake


The 2020 MLB season was a sprint but 2020-21 MLB Free Agency will be a marathon. The owners took a hit because of the pandemic and we’re expecting to see a snail-paced offseason because of it. Almost all MLB employees without a guaranteed contract for next season are in some sort of limbo.

For players, that stretches from free agents to pre-arbitration guys. For the Minnesota Twins, the biggest questions currently revolve around their MVP candidate DH, Nelson Cruz. Falvine again reiterated (via The Athletic) how much of a priority re-signing Cruz is to the Twins’ offseason.

“We’ve spoken so much about Nellie and what he means to this team, to the guys in that room,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said in October. “Obviously, we have to get with the agent and work through everything in terms of what happens next. We’ve been in contact with him, for sure. But the feeling is mutual. We don’t feel any differently than Nellie does. We see a fit for him here, and we’re hopeful that can work out.”

The Athletic – 11/13/20

Nelson Cruz is Invaluable to the Twins

An injury-prone 2020 for Josh Donaldson, combined with other bumps, bruises and slumping players made Nelson Cruz invaluable to Minnesota’s success last season. It started with his play and the numbers he posted showed it.

If someone tells you that Nelson Cruz carried the Minnesota Twins offense in 2020, you can tell them they’re wrong. Nelson Cruz was the Minnesota Twins offense in 2020. His name is spattered all over the AL offensive leaderboards (according to baseball-reference.com) but he stands alone. The only other Twin to crack the top-10 of any statistical category, was Miguel Sano. He was #1 in strikeouts. Yay..

StatisticCruzAL Rank
OB %.3973rd
Slug %.5955th
Runs Created426th
Off Win %.7374th

The Twins’ biggest losing streak in 2020 was 6 games and it stretched from August 25 to August 31. During that losing skid, Nelson Cruz hit .158 with 3 total hits (2 of them were HR’s) and 8 strikeouts. Something flipped in Cruz when the calendar flipped to September, though.

From 9/1 to 9/13, he racked up 14 hits in 10 games; good for a .400 AVG, and a 1.161 OPS. The team went as he did, compiling 9 wins in 10 games and all but securing the AL Central.

More than a great player

Heading into the offseason, there is a lot we don’t know about the 2021 Minnesota Twins. I wrote about many of them earlier this week, when they were ranked way to high up The Athletic’s power rankings.

We don’t know how healthy Josh Donaldson will be. We don’t know who will be back in the bullpen or if we have a starting pitching staff capable of making a playoff run. But if Falvin can re-sign Nelson Cruz, then all suddenly feels normal in the world. He’s like a safety net… or a baby’s blanket… or trash to that spork in the new Toy Story movie.

Not only will he make fans and management feel better about the 2021 roster, but the leadership and intangibles he brings to the clubhouse (especially for Miguel Sano) cannot be replaced. We’ve all heard how much of a leader Cruz is, inside of the Twins dugout. Hell, he won an award for it in October. And for a young and uber-talented team that is still sitting on unstable ground… Nellie brings an unshakable stability.

He wants to stay

Luckily for the Minnesota Twins, Nelson Cruz seemingly wants to be in Minneapolis as much as Falvine wants him here. When the season ended, Cruz lauded the organization and made clear his desire to return in 2021 (via The Athletic).

“I have to be thankful to the whole family, the whole organization has treated me extremely well,” Cruz said after the team’s season-ending loss on Sept. 29. “I cannot be more pleased, top to bottom, first-class. Security, the guys on the ground crew, the clubbies, the coaches — everybody in the Twins organization. It’s been a great run. We’re back-to-back Central champions, so no one can take that away from us. Hopefully, I’ll be back next year.”

Nelson Cruz (via The Athletic)

So what’s the hold up?

We need to be patient because this MLB offseason is going to move at a snail’s pace. The Twins seem willing to pay Nelson Cruz the type of money he is looking for but contract length could become an issue. Cruz reportedly wants two seasons on the deal but, given his age (41 next season), Falvine could be reluctant to go that far. They’d prefer to throw him another one-year deal, with a 2022 team option that would make Nelson some extra cash, should the Twins decide not to exercise it.

We’ll see if Cruz can get a two-year offer from someone else. If he does, the Twins should still match it. You can always deal a Nelson Cruz-type, if a season goes south. But if the Minnesota Twins are competitive, it seems unlikely that Cruz would become a detriment at the plate.

I think Falvine and Nellie come to terms on something, but what the deal looks like, will tell us a lot about what else was being offered to the free agent DH. No matter what, it’d be a huge mistake to let him walk.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan