The San Diego Padres have designated longtime slugger Nelson Cruz for assignment, the team announced Tuesday. The club now has seven days to trade Cruz, release him, or pass him through waivers. In all likelihood Cruz will clear waivers and be released.
Cruz, 43, is hitting .245/.283/.399 with five home runs this season, including only .241/.281/.386 against lefties. He had been hitting well lately -- Cruz is 8 for 27 (.296) with a double in his last eight games -- though he almost never plays the field at this point in his career, and several underlying plate discipline and contact quality metrics suggest his bat has slowed.
Assuming he clears waivers and is released, which is the likely outcome whenever a veteran is designated for assignment, the Padres will owe Cruz the remainder of his $1 million salary this season. He will be free to sign with any other team for the prorated portion of the $720,000 league minimum, though it's unclear whether Cruz intends to continue playing.
Cruz ranks 37th all-time with 464 career home runs. He has hit 387 home runs after his age 29 season, the fifth most ever behind Barry Bonds (503), Babe Ruth (430), Rafael Palmeiro (414), and Hank Aaron (413). Cruz has long been regarded as a great teammate and mentor of young players, which could help him land with a new team.
Matt Carpenter, who hasn't hit much himself this year, had been sharing DH duty with Cruz. The Padres figure to now use that DH spot as a revolving door, allowing them to get their regular players off their feet once in a while, and play better matchups. Rougned Odor has provided several big hits this season and could see an uptick in playing time.
As part of Tuesday's roster moves, Michael Wacha was placed on the injured list with a shoulder issue and righty Domingo Tapia was sent to Triple-A. Utility man Matthew Batten, lefty José Castillo, and were called up.
The Padres enter play Tuesday with a 39-46 record. They are 11 games back in the NL West and seven games back of the third and final National League wild-card spot.