MINNEAPOLIS -- The leader of the Bomba Squad both on and off the field, Nelson Cruz more than fulfilled all expectations the Twins could have had when they signed the veteran last offseason to fill their vacancy at designated hitter. On Monday, Cruz was unsurprisingly recognized for his ageless production as the winner of the 2019 Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.
The 39-year-old received the award for the second time in his career, having also won as a member of the Mariners in 2017. The recognition capped a busy awards season for Cruz, who also won the American League's Silver Slugger Award at designated hitter and finished ninth in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
"When we started the relationship with Nelson, I think we kind of had a pretty good sense of what he was going to do on the field," Twins general manager Thad Levine said after the season. "He's been remarkably consistent, even considering his age. 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. His overall impact on the organization in 2019 was felt by everybody."
Cruz is the third player to win the Edgar Martinez Award as a member of the Twins. He joins Chili Davis, who received the honor in 1991 following Minnesota's most recent World Series championship, and Paul Molitor, who won following his age-39 season in 1996. Cruz edged Kansas City slugger Jorge Soler in this year's voting, as conducted by beat writers, broadcasters and AL public relations departments.
Despite being older than his manager, Rocco Baldelli, and suffering a ruptured tendon in his left wrist during the season, Cruz still posted exemplary numbers at the plate, leading a deep Twins lineup with 41 homers, a .639 slugging percentage and a 1.031 OPS, the highest mark of his 15-year career. Cruz's consistent production was a driving force in the Twins' Major League 307 homers as a team in 2019.
Cruz's home run and RBI (108) totals as a designated hitter set Twins single-season records for the position. His OPS matched the highest in a season among Twins with at least 500 plate appearances since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961, matching Joe Mauer's mark from his 2009 MVP campaign.
With his 41 round-trippers in '19, Cruz joined Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds as the only players in Major League history to hit 40 homers at age 39 or older. Cruz has hit 37 or more homers in each of the last six seasons and was MLB's home run leader of the 2010s, finishing the decade with 346 long balls.
Earlier this offseason, the Twins exercised a $12 million club option to bring Cruz back to Minnesota for the 2020 campaign.