Tampa Bay Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz in Four-Player Trade with Minnesota Twins

Nelson Cruz is heading south for the winter… 

The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired the 41-year-old  Dominican professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder, one of baseball’s most proven sluggers, in a four-player trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz was well aware of the likelihood he’d be dealt this month, with the disappointing Twins well out of contention. Nonetheless he told reporters the news still felt “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to him after becoming fond of the organization over his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota.

“It’s a tough one,” Cruz said. “I guess it’s a new chapter, and I will embrace it the way I embrace everything in my life to go help the Tampa Bay Rays to win a championship.”

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered the night just one game behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

Cruz is a seven-time MLB All-Star with 436 career homers and 1,202 RBIs. He’ll bring some needed pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They’re hitting .226 versus lefties.

Usually frugal Tampa Bay assumes $5.1 million remaining in Cruz’s $13 million salary. The Rays began the season with a $68.3 million payroll, 26th among the 30 teams.

Cruz also has plenty of playoff experience with 17 homers and 37 RBIs in 46 postseason games. He’s batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs this season, and over 258 games with the Twins he finished with 76 homers and a .984 OPS.

“People joke about how he’s ageless, and it really does feel that way,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

With a week until the trade deadline and no shot at making the playoffs, the Twins figured they’d get something for Cruz to begin building toward the future. Minnesota entered Thursday at 41-55.

A 17-year veteran, Cruz signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota in February. He has also played with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Ramgers. He hit at least 37 homers per season from 2014-19. He belted a career-high 44 homers for the Mariners in 2015.

“We thought we should be in the playoff race,” Cruz said. “Never thought we should be in this situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. You never want to leave the places where you are, where you feel comfortable. It is what it is. That’s part of the business.”

Both Ryan and Strotman were in Triple-A Durham‘s rotation.

Ryan, a 25-year-old who will also pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Bulls and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s system. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.

Strotman, 24, had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings with Durham. He was the 17th-ranked Rays prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

Faucher, 25, had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017.

Jose Altuve Among Seven Houston Astros Players Named as Finalists for 2021 MLB All-Star Game

Jose Altuve is one step closer to another All-Star game…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan Major League Baseball second baseman, a six-time MLB All-Star, is among seven Houston Astros players named as finalists to start in the 2021 All-Star Game.

Jose AltuveThe Astros have an MLB best seven finalists this season.

On June 23, Altuve hit his 150th career home run, doing so off Thomas Eshelman of the Baltimore Orioles.

The top three finalists for each position based on fan voting in each league, plus designated hitter for the American League, were announced Sunday.

Three teams — the Los Angeles DodgersChicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays — have five finalists for the Midsummer Classic, which will be played July 13 at Coors Field.

Voting on the finalists begins Monday and ends Thursday. The AL and NL All-Star starters, based on those votes, will be announced on Thursday at 9:00 pm ET on ESPN. The remainder of the All-Star teams will be unveiled next Sunday at 5:30 pm ET on ESPN.

The finalists:

Catcher:

AL:

  1. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
  2. Martin Maldonado, Astros
  3. Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox

NL:

  1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
  2. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Willson Contreras, Cubs

First base:

AL:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
  2. Yuli Gurriel, Astros
  3. Jose Abreu, White Sox

NL:

  1. Max Muncy, Dodgers
  2. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second base:

AL:

  1. Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
  2. Jose Altuve, Astros
  3. DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees

NL:

  1. Ozzie Albies, Braves
  2. Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Gavin Lux, Dodgers

Shortstop:

AL:

  1. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
  2. Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
  3. Carlos Correa, Astros

NL:

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
  2. Javier Baez, Cubs
  3. Brandon Crawford, Giants

Third base:

AL:

  1. Rafael Devers, Red Sox
  2. Alex Bregman, Astros
  3. Yoan Moncada, White Sox

NL:

  1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  2. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals
  3. Justin Turner, Dodgers

Outfield:

AL:

  1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
  2. Aaron Judge, Yankees
  3. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
  4. Michael Brantley, Astros
  5. Adolis García, Texas Rangers
  6. Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays
  7. Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles
  8. Alex Verdugo, Red Sox
  9. Randal Grichuk, Blue Jays

NL:

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr.
  2. Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds
  3. Jesse Winker, Reds
  4. Mookie Betts, Dodgers
  5. Chris Taylor, Dodgers
  6. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
  7. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
  8. Joc Pederson, Cubs
  9. Mike Yastrzemski, Giants

Designated hitter:

AL:

  1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
  2. D. Martinez, Red Sox
  3. Yordan Alvarez, Astros

Chicago White Sox Rookie Yermin Mercedes Makes MLB History with 8-for-8 Start

Yermin Mercedes continues his historic run…

The 28-year-old Dominican Chicago White Sox rookie got three hits in his first three at-bats on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels to improve to 8-for-8 to start 2021, the most consecutive hits to start a season by any player in the modern era (since 1900).

Yermin Mercedes

Mercedes, who had one major league at-bat entering the season, going 0-for-1 in 2020, has started at DH the past two games and tortured the Angels with his two-strike hitting — five of the eight hits have come with two strikes.

After homering in the second inning on Saturday for his first career home run, Mercedes’ eighth straight hit came in the sixth inning, a double that bounced off the warning track in left-center.

“I’m just trying to wait for my pitch and not do too much,” Mercedes said after the White Sox lost 5-3 in Anaheim. “Just stay right there and swing hard. It doesn’t matter if it is two strikes or no strikes, I just want to see the ball.” 

The eight hits:

Friday
1. Line-drive single off a 1-2 changeup from Andrew Heaney
2. Ground ball single off a 1-0 sinker from Javy Guerra
3. Line-drive single off an 0-1 cutter from Chris Rodriguez
4. Line-drive single off an 0-2 cutter from Mike Mayers
5. Double to left field off an 0-2 change from Alex Claudio

Saturday
6. 421-foot home run off a 2-2 splitter from Alex Cobb
7. Ground ball single off a 1-2 sinker from Cobb
8. Double to deep left-center off a 1-0 sinker from Cobb

In his ninth at-bat, Mercedes flew out to center field to end his streak. He finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored on Saturday.

“All of his hits have been clutch and he has been putting us in position to try to win,” manager Tony LaRussa said. “He has had a great approach, especially with two strikes.”

Mercedes is a rookie who has bounced around three organizations, originally signed by the Washington Nationals and spending time with the Baltimore Orioles before the White Sox signed him in 2018. He wasn’t expected to be a big part of the lineup, but Eloy Jimenez‘s injury has opened up playing time, with projected DH Andrew Vaughn starting the past two games in left field.

LaRussa said Mercedes was supposed to have the night off Saturday but that he earned his way into the lineup with his 5-for-5 night.

Mercedes has spent most of his time in the minor leagues at catcher but does own a .302 career minor league average, and in 2019, he hit .317/.388/.581 with 23 home runs in 95 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

“I never imagined that. It is great for me,” Mercedes said of his start. “Now, it’s a new day for me. I want to keep doing well and work with my approach. I want to play every day and I’m excited for that.”

Before Mercedes, the only player since 1900 to get five hits in his first career start was Cecil Travis, who went 5-for-7 for the Washington Senators in 1933.

The overall record for consecutive hits at any point in a season is 12, shared by the Chicago CubsJohnny Kling (1902) and two Boston Red Sox players, Pinky Higgins (1938) and Walt Dropo (1952).

Maikel Franco Agrees to One-Year Deal with Baltimore Orioles

Maikel Franco is flying high…

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball infielder has agreed to an $800,000, one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Maikel Franco

Franco hit .278 with 16 doubles, eight homers and a team-high 38 RBIs for the Kansas City Royals during last year’s coronavirus pandemic-shortened season.

Franco would get a $200,000 performance bonus if he reaches 400 plate appearances. He would get a $250,000 assignment bonus if traded.

He earned $1,092,593 in prorated pay from a $2.95 million salary.

Franco has a .253 average with 110 homers and 381 RBI in seven major league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (2014-19) and the Royals.

He was originally signed for the Phillies by Koby Perez, now Baltimore’s senior director of international scouting.

Jonathan Villar Agrees to One-Year Deal with the New York Mets

Jonathan Villar has Mets his match…

The 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball player will be joining his fifth team in four seasons, agreeing to a one-year deal with the New York Mets, according to ESPN.

Jonathan Villar

Villar’s deal is for $3.55 million, according to multiple reports. His agreement with the Mets was first reported by MLB Network.

Villar, a switch-hitter, had a .232 batting average with 15 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 52 games between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He has shown his versatility in the field, playing second base, shortstop, third base and outfield during his career.

He adds infield depth behind new shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jeff McNeil.

Entering his ninth MLB season, Villar has also played for the Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros since 2013.

He has a career .259 batting average with 80 home runs, 283 RBIs and 218 stolen bases.

Felix Hernandez Signs Minor League Deal with Baltimore Orioles

Felix Hernandez has a new deal…

The Baltimore Orioles have agreed to sign the 34-year-old Venezuelan-American veteran professional baseball pitcher, nicknamed “King Félix,” to a minor league contract.

Felix Hernandez

Hernandez won an American League Cy Young Award, two ERA titles and made six MLB All-Star teams over 15 seasons with the Seattle Mariners before becoming a free agent last offseason.

Hernandez signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves and looked sharp during spring training, but he ultimately opted out of the pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

In his most recent big league action, Hernandez went 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA in 2019. He hasn’t finished with an ERA under 4.00 since 2016, and his last All-Star appearance was in 2015. He has won 169 games and owns a 3.42 career ERA.

Hernandez could earn a rotation spot with the rebuilding Orioles, who have 2019 All-Star left-hander John Means locked in as a starter but not much else. They traded Alex Cobb to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, leaving Keegan AkinDean KremerJorge LopezWade LeBlancThomas Eshelman and Bruce Zimmermann as the only returning players to start at least one game in 2020.

 

Baltimore has also announced it has agreed to minor league deals with infielders Seth Mejias-Brean and Malquin Canelo, right-handers Dusten Knight, Konner Wade and Spenser Watkins, and left-hander LeBlanc.

Nelson Cruz Reportedly Agrees to One-Year, $13 Million Contract with Minnesota Twins

Nelson Cruz is twinning again…

The 40-year-old professional baseball player, a designated hitter and right fielder, and the Minnesota Twins are reportedly in agreement on a one-year, $13 million contract, according to ESPN.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz has been a linchpin of the Bomba Squad Twins‘ lineup. And he’ll be back right in the middle of it in 2021.

The slugger, who hit .303 with 16 home runs, 33 RBIs and a career-high OPS+ (169) in the pandemic-shortened season, finished sixth in the American League MVP voting and was selected as the Marvin Miller Man of Year in the annual Players Choice Awards.

The award goes to the player whom his peers “most respect based on his leadership on the field and in the community.” Cruz donated a fire engine and an ambulance and helped build a police station in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic, and his Boomstick 23 Foundation has contributed wheelchairs and crutches, and he set up a clinic to provide medical and dental care.

His mission to help his hometown and other towns in the Dominican Republic led to him receiving the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the 2020 ESPYS.

Cruz played last season on a $12 million deal after swatting a team-high 41 home runs while reaching 108 RBIs in 2019, despite two stints on the injured list for a wrist problem. He has reached the 40-homer mark four times in his career; Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth hold the all-time mark with five seasons. Cruz also was the 57th player in major league history to reach 400 career home runs.

His .992 OPS in 2020 ranked fourth in the AL and was the fifth-best mark in MLB history by a player in his age-39 season or older, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. And he led all major leaguers with a 1.182 OPS on pitches in the strike zone over the past two seasons.

From 2014 to 2018, no player in the majors hit more home runs than Cruz (203). In 16 major league seasons, Cruz, a six-time MLB All-Star who has three Silver Slugger Awards, has hit 417 home runs with 1,152 RBIs and a .278 batting average for the Twins, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers.

Freddy Galvis Signs One-Year Contract with Baltimore Orioles

Freddy Galvis is ready to play ball in the Charm City.

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball shortstop has agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, helping the team fill a hole in their infield.

Freddy Galvis

Galvis broke into the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012 and spent the past two years with Cincinnati Reds.

He hit .220 with seven homers and 16 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Galvis is expected to take over as Baltimore’s shortstop from Jose Iglesias, who was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in December. Galvis played 33 games at shortstop last season and 16 at second base.

He would receive a $250,000 assignment bonus the first time he’s traded.

Galvis had a $5.5 million salary last season — the option year of his previous contract, which wound up as $2,037,037 prorated during the shortened season.

Galvis has a .247 career batting average with 95 home runs and 386 RBIs. A journeyman who is headed to his fifth big league team, Galvis started with the Phillies, made a one-year stop with the San Diego Padres in 2018 and played with the Toronto Blue Jays before joining Cincinnati during the 2019 season.

His best season offensively was in 2019, when he hit 23 homers with 70 RBIs.

Baltimore signed him primarily for his ability to deftly play in the middle of the infield. He has a .984 fielding percentage as a shortstop over 801 games.

Raisel Iglesias Acquired by the Los Angeles Angels

Raisel Iglesias will be seeing angels next season…

The 30-year-old Cuban professional baseball pitcher, a closer for the Cincinnati Reds, has been acquired by the Los Angeles Angels.

Raisel Iglesias

The team acquired Iglesias in exchange for right-handed reliever Noe Ramirez and a player to be named later or cash considerations on Monday, the first day of the virtual winter meetings.

 

Iglesias saved 92 games from 2017 to 2019, but had arguably his best season in 2020, posting a 2.74 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP while striking out 31 batters and walking only five in 23 innings.

Iglesias, a right-hander, throws his four-seam fastball in the upper-90s and also mixes in a slider and a changeup. He’s the second acquisition made by new Angels general manager Perry Minasian, coming over five days after the team acquired another native Cuban, shortstop Jose Iglesias, from the Baltimore Orioles. That day, the Angels also non-tendered five relievers, including former closer Hansel Robles.

 

Raisel Iglesias and Jose Iglesias are not related but were born one day apart. They were teammates with the Reds in 2019.

Raisel Iglesias will make $9.125 million in the final season of his three-year, $24.125 million contract, but the Angels are also receiving unspecified cash considerations in the trade. By dealing Iglesias and non-tendering Archie BradleyBrian Goodwin and Curt Casali, among others, the Reds have saved nearly $20 million in salary commitments for 2021.

Reds general manager Nick Krall told reporters the team is trying to “reallocate resources” to address its pitching depth and find a starting shortstop.

Ubaldo Jimenez to Appear at the Colorado Rockies’ Spring Training

Ubaldo Jimenez will be attending spring training…

The 36-year-old Dominican baseball player will return to the mound for the Colorado Rockies in spring training after being signed to a minor league contract with the team.

Ubaldo Jimenez 

The hard-throwing right-hander with the distinctive delivery was one of 21 players to receive a non-roster invitation to spring training from the Rockies on Wednesday. The list also includes catcher Drew Butera and infielder Chris Owings.

Jimenez hasn’t pitched in the majors since September 22, 2017, with the Baltimore Orioles. He was originally signed by Colorado as an amateur free agent while a teenager.

Jimenez became a fan favorite at Coors Fieldafter bursting on the scene in September 2006. The affable pitcher tossed Colorado’s only no-hitter on April 7, 2010, against the Atlanta Braves. He wound up 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA that season and finished third in the National League Cy Youngvoting.

His 19 wins remain a single-season Rockies record.

Jimenez was dealt to the Cleveland Indiansin July 2011, where he spent two more seasons before signing a free-agent deal with Baltimore prior to 2014.

He’s 114-117 over his career with a 4.34 ERA. Jimenez has struck out 1,720 in 1,870 innings.

Colorado’s pitchers and catchers are scheduled to have their first workout February 12. The first full-squad workout is set for February 17.