The Twins have added plenty of power to their lineup this offseason, and their latest acquisition is perhaps the mightiest of all.Sources confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand and Jon Paul Morosi on Thursday that the Twins have agreed to a one-year, $14 million contract with 38-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz, who
The Twins have added plenty of power to their lineup this offseason, and their latest acquisition is perhaps the mightiest of all.
Sources confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand and Jon Paul Morosi on Thursday that the Twins have agreed to a one-year, $14 million contract with 38-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz, who will give Minnesota a needed upgrade at the designated hitter position. The deal reportedly includes a $12 million club option for 2020 with a $300,000 buyout.
The club has not yet announced the move or an associated roster move, which will be needed to open a spot on the full 40-man roster.
Though Twins general manager Thad Levine didn't confirm the signing in an interview with Tom Verducci on MLB Network, he spoke highly of the veteran from the eight years they spent together in the Rangers organization, where Levine was previously the assistant general manager.
"Knowing him very well from our time in Texas together, he is a unique blend of talent," Levine said. "I think all the fans see that out there. He has prodigious power. He's been a guy who has defied aging so far as he enters his 38-year-old season and he still seems to be hitting the ball as far as he ever has with the same velocity.
"But more than that, this guy is a player who plays with an infectious smile. I think everybody around him feels a little bit better about playing the game, has a little bit more energy on the field and has a little bit more purpose when they get between the lines because this guy has just such amazing energy and enthusiasm."
Since a player is only allowed to be offered a qualifying offer once in their career, Cruz's $14 million deal falls short of the $17.9 million qualifying offer the slugger may have ultimately received from the Mariners, who would have gotten Draft pick compensation had he signed elsewhere. The rule worked in the Twins' favor in this case, as they do not need to surrender a Draft pick in order to sign him.
Cruz has been one of the game's most consistent power hitters the past several years, with at least 37 homers and an .850 OPS in each of his past five seasons. His 203 homers in that span lead all Major League hitters, ahead of Giancarlo Stanton (188) and Edwin Encarnacion (185). He hit .256/.342/.509 with 37 homers in 2018 for the Mariners, and he was named to his sixth American League All-Star team.
While the four-year, $57 million contract Cruz signed in 2014 as a 34-year-old seemed like somewhat of gamble at the time, the slugger certainly exceeded that value over the life of the deal. Cruz slashed a very strong .284/.362/.546 with 163 homers and 414 RBIs in four seasons with the Mariners, all the more impressive when considering Seattle's home ballpark of Safeco Field is widely known as a pitcher's park. He was also quite durable, playing in 606 games over that four-year span, an average of 152 games per season.
The Twins were looking to add an experienced hitter to lengthen their lineup this offseason, and DH appeared to be an area of particular need. Minnesota only got 15 homers and a .682 OPS out of its DH spot last season, both second-worst in the AL, ahead of only the Tigers.
Cruz's acquisition should, at the very least, give some stability to the position after the Twins gave three players -- Logan Morrison, Robbie Grossman and Joe Mauer -- at least 30 starts at DH in 2018.
The Twins have now added a trio of home run threats this offseason in Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron, after finishing 12th in the AL with 166 long balls in 2018. No hitter on the Twins' roster entering the offseason had a career 30-homer season. In contrast, both Cruz and Cron are coming off 30-homer campaigns, and Schoop had 32 round-trippers in his breakout '17.
With Cruz and Schoop signed to short-term deals, the Twins maintain their payroll flexibility moving forward as they continue to develop their young core. If Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler take the steps forward in 2019 that Minnesota hopes they can, the team could be primed for another postseason push after a surprise run in '17. If not, the Twins still don't have any guaranteed contracts beyond '19.
Cruz will bring a wealth of experience to a largely young Twins roster, on which the 31-year-old Jason Castro was previously the team's oldest player. In fact, Cruz is actually older than the Twins' new manager, Rocco Baldelli, who turned 37 in September.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.