Minnesota Twins, MLB Free Agency

Twins finally going all-out to bring Nelson Cruz back

Nelson Cruz may continue to wait for all his options, but the Minnesota Twins are upping their effort to bring him back.

A slow free agent market has thus far included little in the way of significant rumors on slugger Nelson Cruz. The Minnesota Twins would surely like him back, and according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network they have upped their offer on a one-year deal.

Multiple reports have now suggested Cruz is garnering interest from American League and National League teams, as everyone awaits a decision on the universal DH for the coming season and beyond. So Cruz is right to pause on signing back with the Twins, if only until he he knows all his realistic options. An earlier report suggested he’s seeking a two-year deal.

Can Nelson Cruz continue to defy the age curve?

Cruz will turn 41 on July 1, but you wouldn’t know that purely looking at his numbers. In 53 games last season, he hit .303/.397/.595 with 16 home runs and 33 RBI. In 2019, his first season with the Twins, he had a .311/.392/.639 slash-line with 41 home runs and 108 RBI. From 2014-2019, he hit 40, 44, 43, 39, 37 and 41 home runs respectively.

But there are couple red flags. According to FanGraphs, Cruz’ fly ball rate fell nearly 10 percent from 2019 (40.2 percent) to 2020 (30.7 percent). Statcast had his hard hit rate in the 86th percentile last year, even with some drop-off, but FanGraphs (via Baseball Info Solutions) had a far steeper drop in raw hard hit rate for him (38.6 percent; 52.5 percent in 2019).

That said, the only black mark on Cruz’s Statcast page from 2020 is sprint speed — as expected. His barrel rate, hard hit rate, exit velocity, xSLG, xwOBA, xBA and walk rate were all no worse than 73rd percentile last season.

The Twins initially signed Cruz to a one-year deal in December of 2018, with an option for a second year that he rendered a no-brainer to be picked up with what he did in 2019. It’s unclear if that kind of thing is on the table this time around, or if Cruz wants a second year fully guaranteed to him wherever he signs. The Twins have apparently upped the ante to try to bring him back though, as they continue a recent trend of activity fairly late in the offseason.

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