Although he is approaching his 40s and spends most of his time at designated hitter these days, Nelson Cruz is still one of the top sluggers in the game and should draw plenty of interest on the free-agent market this offseason.
Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the veteran.
Comparing Cruz and Harper
Nov. 16: Nelson Cruz is among the biggest bats available in free agency. Bryce Harper might be the biggest bat -- and the biggest name -- on the open market. The similarities end there, though, right? After all, the former is much older, limited to a designated hitter role and not looking to land a record-breaking contract.
Maybe not. MLB Network's Hot Stove Live show made this comparison over the past four seasons in a game of blind resumes:
Cruz (570 games): .284 AVG, 163 HR, 414 RBIs, 148 OPS+
Harper (606 games): .283 AVG, 129 HR, 372 RBIs, 150 OPS+
Cruz and Harper's production going back to 2015 -- the year Harper was the unanimous National League MVP, by the way -- is pretty close. Admit it: You weren't expecting that.
Of course, Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, can push for the massive $400 million deal they're seeking because Harper is a whopping 12 years younger than Cruz (38) and has put up some historic, Hall of Fame-caliber statistics through his age-25 campaign.
But if you're an American League contender hunting for a big bat to boost your lineup and have an opening at DH, well, you might want to give Cruz a call.
Video: Blind resumes of MLB's high-profile free agents
Cruz can still provide great value despite age
Nov. 15: While free agents in their mid-to-late 20s, such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi, will dominate the conversation during Hot Stove season, there are a number of players in their late 30s and early 40s who still have plenty to offer, as MLB.com's Will Leitch wrote Thursday.
Nelson Cruz is arguably the most prominent member of that group, coming off an age-37 season in which he hit 37 homers, drove in 97 runs and produced a 135 OPS+.
The underlying metrics suggest Cruz is poised for continued success, as he finished 2018 with the seventh-highest hard-hit rate (51.3 percent) and the 11th-highest barrel-per-plate-appearance rate (9.3 percent) in the Majors, according to Statcast™ (min. 150 batted-ball events).
The slugger has played just nine games in the field over the past two seasons, so his suitors will likely be limited to the American League, with the Astros and Twins considered the favorites. But Leitch argues every AL team could benefit from adding Cruz to its lineup.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman echoed that view in an article for Fancred Sports looking at 35 under-the-radar free agents. Heyman advises teams not to bet against Cruz, even though Kendrys Morales' three-year, $33 million contract with the Blue Jays hasn't gone well.
The Twins need a DH. Will they go after Cruz?
Nov. 13: Minnesota was starved for production out of its designated hitter spot throughout all of 2018. The Logan Morrison signing was a flop, and the revolving door of Joe Mauer, Robbie Grossman, Tyler Austin and Eddie Rosario down the stretch didn't fare well, either. Twins DHs combined for a .682 OPS and 15 homers last season, topping only the Tigers in those categories among American League teams.
With the large salaries of Mauer, Ervin Santana, Lance Lynn, Morrison and Brian Dozier now off the books, the Twins have plenty of payroll flexibility to work with for 2019. Brandon Warne of Zone Coverage thinks that the Twins will use that money to sign Cruz to bring some much-needed stability to the DH position, at least in the short term.
Warne sees Cruz as the "perfect bridge" to Austin, Miguel Sano or Twins No. 7 prospect Brent Rooker, as the 38-year-old would give Minnesota's lineup an immediate influx of elite power without commanding a lengthy commitment.
That's not to mention Cruz's connection to Minnesota's front office -- Twins general manager Thad Levine and Cruz spent eight years together with the Rangers during Levine's stint as Texas' assistant general manager.
Cruz could bring much-needed stability to Houston's DH role
Nov. 12: The Astros won a World Series in 2017 and reached the American League Championship Series in '18 despite inconsistency from their designated hitter for large swaths of those seasons.
Prior to the 2017 campaign, Houston brought on Carlos Beltran to be the primary DH, but he struggled in his final MLB season and split time with Evan Gattis, who was expected to flourish in the role in 2018 but struggled to a .226 average. Though Tyler White was successful down the stretch, he might need to play more first base in 2019 after the departure of Marwin Gonzalez and the transition of Yuli Gurriel to more of a utility role.
That's why an article in House of Houston calls for a commitment to Cruz, who has undoubtedly been one of the game's elite DHs over the last five seasons with the Orioles and Mariners. Cruz could bring a welcome dose of consistency to the middle of the Astros' lineup alongside the younger Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, and though he's a shorter-term solution, he would give Houston an impact bat at a position of need while they still have the 1-2 rotation punch of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
Astros, White Sox could consider Cruz
Nov. 9: Earlier this offseason, it was assumed the Mariners would be interested in bringing back Nelson Cruz after the slugger had four successful seasons in Seattle. But with reports that the club is considering a teardown, a reunion with the 38-year-old free agent could be off the table.
That said, Cruz could still have a number of suitors in the American League, with MLB Network insider Jon Heyman naming the Astros and White Sox as potential landing spots in an article for Fancred Sports.
Evan Gattis, Houston's primary designated hitter in 2018, is a free agent as well, and he is not expected to return. The Astros have the option of using Tyler White at DH, but the 28-year-old has never held an everyday role in the Majors.
The White Sox, meanwhile, are reportedly planning to spend big in free agency this offseason to speed up their rebuild. Chicago has an obvious need for a bat, as the club produced a 92 wRC+ this past season, ranking 20th in the Majors. Cruz is particularly appealing for Chicago because he isn't likely to make much more than $15 million per year, and signing him won't prevent the White Sox from addressing their myriad of additional issues.
Rays could pursue Donaldson, Cruz after adding Zunino
Nov. 8: The Rays could be an interesting destination for one of the big bats on the free-agent market this winter, especially now that they've added a solid starting catcher in Mike Zunino via trade from the Mariners. Two names to watch: Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson.
According to Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic (subscription required), Tampa Bay has more payroll flexibility this offseason than in years past. That could put them in position to pursue an impact right-handed hitter, as they try to build on their surprise success from this past season. Zunino, who hit 45 homers the past two seasons as Cruz's teammate in Seattle, helps fill that area of need, but why stop there?
The Rays surged down the stretch and finished with a 90-72 record. One rival general manager told Rosenthal that even if they might have overachieved in 2018, their young talent and depth, both in the Majors and Minors, is a good sign for the future.
If they think they can contend in 2019, adding a hitter like Cruz or Donaldson could provide a major power boost to the lineup, and might not even break the bank. Cruz has averaged 41 homers over the last five seasons, but he's 38 years old and essentially a designated hitter only.
Donaldson has a ton of upside, one of the game's elite players just a couple of seasons ago, but the 32-year-old third baseman was plagued by injuries this year and didn't pick up his form until the very end of the season after his trade to the Indians.
With well-defined market, Cruz could sign quickly
Nov. 6: While Nelson Cruz has hit more homers than any other player (203) over the past five seasons and is coming off another strong campaign, the number of teams that are interested in his services will likely be modest. After all, Cruz is 38 years old and has played just nine games in the field since the beginning of 2017.
Still, there should be at least three or four American League teams that seriously consider signing him, including the Mariners, Twins, Rays and White Sox. And because his contract demands likely won't be too steep, Cruz could wrap up his free-agent situation in relatively quick fashion, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi pointed out Tuesday.
Predicting Cruz's contract
Nov. 5: One of the most consistent and durable sluggers in the sport, Nelson Cruz has averaged north of 40 homers and 150 games played over the past five seasons. That type of year-in, year-out production should help him score a multi-year contract, even if he's now 38 years old and limited to designated hitter duties.
To that end, Jim Bowden of The Athletic (subscription required) predicts Cruz -- who made $14.25 million in each of his four seasons with the Mariners -- will land a two-year deal with an AL contender in the range of $15 million per. He cites recent former star DHs David Ortiz ($16 million per with the Red Sox in 2015-16) and Victor Martinez ($17 million average annual value with the Tigers from 2015-18) as reasonable comps for Cruz's pact.
Bowden also notes that the Rays or Twins might be good fits for Cruz, if the five-time All-Star doesn't return to Seattle.