One low-flying White Sox rumor was put to rest on Thursday, while another one gained some reinforcements.
The Twins removed Nelson Cruz from everybody’s offseason plans, reportedly signing him for one-year and $14.3 million. The saying is there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal, and it tends to be more true with a player like Cruz, who just wrapped up a four-year run with Seattle averaging 41 homers and a 148 OPS+.
Cruz could only get one year because he’s entering his age-38 season, he’ll be a DH, and his production tailed off toward average in his final season in Seattle. The drop in BABIP explains some of that, and the fact that his strikeout total actually fell a little suggests he could rebound. But he’ll also turn 39 this season, and that combination was why I wasn’t especially thrilled by early rumors connecting Cruz with the Sox.
(Then again, the Sox went ahead and put Yonder Alonso in the DH spot instead. Cruz strikes me as the better solution.)
The Twins have made the DH/first base rotation just as much a priority, as Cruz follows their signing of C.J. Cron. Rian Watt at FanGraphs shows the favorable projections for Cron/Cruz for a reasonable rate over Joe Mauer and Logan Morrison.
Jayson Stark stated the case more simply:
Twins fan and Baseball Prospectus editor Aaron Gleeman says this investment both improves the team and frees up resources for more additions, namely pitchers.
He also noted the Twins have taken advantage of the limited market for aging DHs before.
Cruz has a chance to transform a lineup, not unlike a 39-year-old Jim Thome did for the Twins in their first year at Target Field in 2010. Thome then, like Cruz now, was a still-great hitter with a limited free agent market because of his age and DH-only status. National League teams are out of the DH market by definition and many American League teams either have the position filled already or avoid committing to one player there. It’s a game of musical chairs.
Cruz chose the Twins over the Rays and the Astros, whereas Thome had an even more limited market in 2010, picking the Twins over the Rangers. Thome signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with Minnesota and then re-signed for $3 million the next season, hitting a combined .266/.387/.562 in a Twins uniform. That’s the type of short-term impact the Twins are banking on with Cruz, in the batter’s box and in the clubhouse.
Not that I’m bitter.
Assuming the Twins aren’t done adding, they should be within striking distance of Cleveland by the end of the winter, which makes the idea of a Bryce Harper/Manny Machado-fueled miracle run for the White Sox a little harder to fathom.
That said, the easiest way to short-circuit projections is by building a highly effective bullpen, which is why the Adam Ottavino rumors make more sense for the Sox than the Cruz ones did.
Morosi added a note saying a source says “multiple other clubs” are also interested, which is the kind of thing an agent source would say.
Ottavino became a FanGraphs fascination for his rapid transformation into a strikeout artist at Coors Field. He created his own throwing facility in Manhattan, focusing on spin rates and high-speed cameras to find a third pitch that better complemented his fastball and breaking ball. The strongest evidence of his offseason work was a new and effective cutter, but it turns out everything improved. As Travis Sawchik put it, “the offseason wasn’t so much about building a better pitch but a better way to practice.”
(Ottavino’s offseason also included a brief stop at Driveline Baseball. Here’s hoping for a similar trajectory for Carson Fulmer.)
He still walks more guys than you’d like, and holding baserunners is an issue should he start allowing more of them, so he might be walking a fine line for sustainable success. But if he can repeat what he did with the Rockies for a year or two, what with the 36 percent strikeout rate over 78 innings, those are only minor quibbles.