Twins to pick up Nelson Cruz's option (sources)

October 9th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' first move of the offseason was one that came as little surprise on Wednesday, when baseball sources confirmed that the Twins will pick up their $12 million club option on designated hitter Nelson Cruz for the 2020 season. The news was first reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

The club has not confirmed the reports, and the Twins are expected to announce multiple decisions at once in the coming days. Left-hander , 28, also has an outstanding club option for next season.

"His overall impact on the organization in 2019 was felt by everybody," Twins general manager Thad Levine said Wednesday. "And I know a lot of players have spoken about that individually. We feel that. We were extremely pleased with the relationship and engagement with him. We would like to have that extend beyond one year."

Cruz had been signed to a one-year, $14 million last offseason with the club option for 2020.

Though Cruz turned 39 years old during the 2019 season, he still enjoyed one of the most productive campaigns of his 15-year career, as he led the Twins with a .311/.392/.639 batting line -- the best slugging percentage and OPS of his career -- and also paced the Bomba Squad with 41 homers. His 1.031 OPS was second in the American League behind only .

Cruz led the Major Leagues with 346 homers in the last decade, and his 2019 campaign marked his fourth season with 40 or more homers in the last six years and made him just the fourth player in Major League history to post a 40-homer season in his age-38 season or older, joining Barry Bonds ('03-04), Darrell Evans (1985) and Hank Aaron ('73).

"He’s been remarkably consistent, even considering his age," Levine said. "I think I had some history with him in terms of what contributions he could make in the clubhouse. He’s matured to a different role than even when I knew him. Our players and staff got to see the impact on the clubhouse."

Even casting aside Cruz's on-field production, many of Cruz's teammates say that his impact on the young, developing players in the Twins' clubhouse played a significant role in the team's unexpected surge to its first AL Central championship since 2010. Cruz not only plays an active role in the clubhouse coaching dynamic, but he also leads his teammates by example through his focused everyday preparation.

"The Nelson Cruz experience could not have been more perfect for us," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He is a guy that changes an atmosphere single-handedly, both on the field during the game and every single day that he shows up to the clubhouse. He's been a joy to be around."

Cruz has had a strong impact on young slugger , who had a locker next to Cruz at Target Field and had expressed his desire earlier this season for Cruz to eventually retire as a member of the Twins. Sanó said that he absorbed a lot from watching Cruz's routine throughout the year, as Sanó, too, had one of the best years of his career with 34 homers and a .923 OPS in 105 games.

"He's one of the most special people I've seen in my life," Sanó said. "He tries to help the young players and the old players, and everything he does is good for the people."

Cruz's continued presence on the roster should also pay dividends for the sizable young, Latin-American contingent on the Twins, including , Sanó, All-Stars and , and rookies like and . Behind the leadership of figures like Cruz and , that group should continue to maintain its loose, productive vibe in the Twins' clubhouse.

"It feels very special to play alongside Nelson," Polanco said. "He's a great leader, a great human being, a great friend, and obviously a great player. So he brings a lot of things to the table. It's been very special."