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.

Marwin Gonzalez Signs One-Year, $3 Million Deal with Boston Red Sox

Marwin Gonzalez is in the red

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball utility player, a free-agent infielder, has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, according to ESPN.

Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez spent the past two seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He hit .211 with five home runs and 22 RBIs last year in a pandemic-shortened schedule.

Before his stint in Minnesota, he played seven seasons with the Houston Astros. His best season was in 2017, when he hit .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs and helped the team win the World Series.

A switch-hitter known for his defensive versatility, Gonzalez played first base, second base, third base and right field for the Twins last season.

Boston’s agreement with Gonzalez, which was first reported by MLB.com, comes a day after the Red Sox traded Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals in a three-team deal that yielded outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later.

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.

Francisco Liriano & Toronto Blue Jays Agree to Minor League Deal

Francisco Liriano is flying high…

The 37-year-old Dominican veteran professional baseball relief pitcher, a left-hander, has agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays that includes an invitation to spring training.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano didn’t pitch in the MLB during the pandemic-altered 2020 season. He was in camp with the Philadelphia Phillies on a minor league deal when the Phillies released him in July before Opening Day.

He went 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019, striking out 63 and walking 35 in 70 innings.

Liriano, an MLB All-Star as a rookie with the Minnesota Twins in 2006, is 112-114 with a 4.15 ERA in 300 starts and 119 relief outings over 14 major league seasons with the Twins, Chicago White Sox, Pirates, Blue Jays, Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers.

He pitched for Toronto in 2016 and 2017 before getting traded to Houston for outfielders Teoscar Hernández and Nori Aoki.

Liriano won a World Series ring with the 2017 Astros, making five short relief appearances during the postseason that year.

Eddie Rosario Agrees to One-Year $8 Million Dollar Deal with Cleveland Indians

Eddie Rosario is headed to The CLE.

The 29-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball left fielder, who spent the past six seasons with the Minnesota Twins, has agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, according to ESPN.

Eddie Rosario

Rosario’s contract is pending the completion of a physical, according to sources.

The Indians know Rosario well. He has been a nemesis with the AL Central rival Twins, hitting more career homers (22 in 93 games) against Cleveland than any other team. He hit 11 of those homers at Progressive Field, his most at any road ballpark.

Earlier Friday, the Indians finalized a one-year, $5 million contract with free-agent second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who was a solid free-agent pickup in 2020 when he won his first Gold Glove.

 

Rosario is a huge addition for Cleveland’s outfield, which has been an issue for the past two seasons as the team has used a platoon of players.

After the Indians sent MLB All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets earlier this month and cut more than $30 million from their payroll, Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations, tried to soothe some outraged Cleveland fans by pledging to put money back into the roster.

 

He has done that in bringing back Hernández and acquiring Rosario, who’ll provide some needed pop to manager Terry Francona‘s lineup following the losses of Lindor and Carlos Santana.

 

Rosario had his best season in 2019, when he reached career-highs with 32 homers and 109 RBIs in 137 games. During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, he batted .257 with 13 homers and drove in 42 runs in 57 games.

Rosario, who was eligible for his third and final year of arbitration, became a free agent one season early after the Twins declined to offer him a 2021 contract. A left-handed hitter, he has a career .277 average with 119 homers and 388 RBIs.

Hernandez’s deal with the Indians includes a $6 million club option in 2022 with no buyout.

Hernández, 30, was an invaluable addition last season. He led the AL with 20 doubles and helped the Indians secure a wild-card berth. He batted .283 with three homers, 20 RBIs and 35 runs in 58 games.

Cleveland acquired middle infielders Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez from the Mets in the January 7 trade of Lindor, a four-time MLB All-Star who was entering his final year under contract and had rejected numerous long-term offers.

Jason Castro Signs Two-Year, $7 Million Contract with Houston Astros

Jason Castro has landed an astronomical deal…

The Houston Astros have reached a two-year, $7 million contract with the Latino professional baseball catcher, according to ESPN.

Jason Castro

The deal, which includes $2 million in possible escalators based on games played at catcher in 2021, brings Castro back to Houston, where he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft, spent his first six major league seasons and was an MLB All-Star in 2013.

Castro gives Houston another veteran catcher to play behind starter Martin Maldonado. Castro hit hit .232 with 62 home runs and 212 RBIs over 617 games during his first stint in Houston.

Castro finished the 2020 season with the San Diego Padres following a trade by the Los Angeles Angels in August. He appeared in 27 games between the two teams during the shortened season, hitting .188 with two home runs and nine RBIs. He spent the previous three seasons with the Minnesota Twins, where he played 208 games and hit .229.

He’s been a below-average hitter throughout his career, with a .230 batting average, but has been lauded for his pitch-framing and blocking skills.

The Athletic first reported on the agreement, while USA Today first reported the terms of the deal.

Martin Perez Agrees to One-Year Deal to Return to the Boston Red Sox

Martin Perez is seeing Red (Sox)

The 29-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball pitcher, a veteran left-hander, has agreed to a one-year, $5 million guaranteed contract to return to the Boston Red Sox, according to ESPN.

Martin Perez 

Perez’s agreement, which was first reported by The Athletic, includes a club option for a second year in 2022.

Perez spent last season with the Red Sox, going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA, which was preceded by a season in which he went 10-7 with a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins.

He had spent the previous seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, posting double-digit wins three separate times.

Hansel Robles Agrees to One-Year Contract with Minnesota Twins

Hansel Robles is Twinning

The Minnesota Twins have signed the 30-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher and former Los Angeles Angels closer to a one-year contract.

Hansel Robles

The deal is worth $2 million, according to The Associated Press.

Robles saved 23 games in 27 chances in 2019 when he went 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA in a 71 appearances. Last season, however, he struggled with a 10.26 ERA in 18 appearances, finishing 0-2 with one save in three chances.

He wasn’t tendered a contract by the Angels this offseason, making him a free agent. The Angels traded him for Cincinnati Reds closer Raisel Iglesias this offseason.

Robles will join the back end of a Twins bullpen led by closer Taylor Rogers, who has 39 saves in 47 chances over the past two seasons.

Robles has a 3.91 ERA in his career over 313 appearances with the New York Mets and Angels in six major league seasons.

Dereck Rodriguez Agrees to Minor League Deal with Colorado Rockies 

Dereck Rodriguez has a new deal…

The 28-year-old Puerto Rican baseball pitcher, the son of MLB Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, has signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies that includes an invitation to spring training.

Dereck Rodriguez

Rodriguez appeared in 51 games over three seasons with the San Francisco Giants. He compiled a 12-15 record with a 4.27 ERA before being designated for assignment by the Giants on August 26. He was claimed five days later off waivers by the Detroit Tigers before recently becoming a free agent.

Rodriguez made his major league debut at Coors Field on May 29, 2018. He allowed four runs, one earned, over 3⅓ innings. He also had an RBI double off Kyle Freeland.

Rodriguez was originally a sixth-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2011.

Ronald Acuna Jr. Earns Second Career Silver Slugger Award

There’s certainly a silver lining for Ronald Acuna Jr. 

The 22-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player is among four Atlanta Braves players to earn Silver Slugger Awards, which were unveiled Thursday by Major League Baseball in honor of the best offensive players at every position in each league.

Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Winning from the Braves were Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, who each won the award for the second time, and first-time winner Travis d’Arnaud.

The Chicago White Sox led the American League with three Silver Sluggers: shortstop Tim Anderson, left fielder Eloy Jimenez and first baseman Jose Abreu, who won the award for the third time after batting .317 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs.

It was the first honor for both Anderson and Jimenez.

Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Mike Trout received his eighth Silver Slugger Award after batting .281 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs this season.

2020 Silver Slugger Winners

POS. AL NL
C Salvador Perez, Royals Travis d’Arnaud, Braves
1B Jose Abreu, White Sox Freddie Freeman, Braves
2B DJ LeMahieu, Yankees Donovan Solano, Giants
SS Tim Anderson, White Sox Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
3B Jose Ramírez, Indians Manny Machado, Padres
OF Mike Trout, Angels Juan Soto, Nationals
OF Eloy Jimenez, White Sox Mookie Betts, Dodgers
OF Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
DH Nelson Cruz, Twins Marcell Ozuna, Braves

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz, New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez rounded out the American League winners.

World Series champion and Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts, Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, San Francisco Giants second baseman Donovan Solano and San Diego Padres teammates Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado completed the National League list.

Selections are based on a combination of offensive stats, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, in addition to the managers’ and coaches’ views of a player’s overall offensive value.