The Minnesota Twins have agreed to a one-year contract worth $13 million to bring back free-agent designated hitter Nelson Cruz, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports. CBS Sports ranked Cruz as the 14th-best free agent available this winter. Here's what we wrote:
Cruz turned 40 in July, but you wouldn't have known it based on his offensive output. There's a natural tension between his age and his future prospects that's likely to leave him undervalued. He still clobbers the ball; he still walks; and he still is a positive force in the clubhouse. The closest thing to an age-related sign of decay is either a slight uptick in whiffs or a drop in exit velocity that left him in, uh, the 87th percentile. Cruz is mortal; he's going to stop hitting at some point, voluntarily or otherwise. But golly, sometimes it doesn't feel like that's true.
Cruz, 40, will return as Minnesota's designated hitter for the 2021 season. It'll be his third year with the reigning AL Central champions. Over the past two seasons with the Twins, Cruz has recorded a .308/.394/.626 (163 wRC+) slash line with 57 home runs, 32 doubles and 141 RBI in 173 games. Cruz is entering his 17th MLB season after having spent time with the Milwaukee Brewers (2005), Texas Rangers (2006-13), Baltimore Orioles (2014) and Seattle Mariners (2015-18). The six-time All Star and four-time Silver Slugger has 417 career home runs over 1,742 games.
As Passan notes, Major League Baseball and the Major League Players' Association have still yet to come to an agreement on the decision of a universal designated hitter for the upcoming season, and although a return to Minnesota was expected for Cruz this winter, the lack of resolution on the issue three weeks before spring training begins certainly had an impact on the signing. The universal DH was one of the rule changes implemented in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. Our own Mike Axisa outlined why the universal DH should be one of 2020's rule changes that the league should keep for 2021.
The Twins also signed left-hander J.A. Happ and shortstop Andrelton Simmons this winter.