Designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who hit 76 home runs for the Twins over two-plus seasons, is gone after he was dealt Thursday to the contending Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for two Triple-A pitchers who aren’t expected to stay in the minors for long.
The trade is not surprising — Cruz was signed with the Twins through 2021 — but it still hurts because he was such a key figure for the club over those previous seasons. And once again, he found himself in a familiar place, leading the team in batting average, home runs and RBI.
Cruz’s official nickname is “boomstick,” but he often was described as the “ageless one” because he appeared to get better the older he got. The 41-year-old now heads to Tampa, a team that is a game back of the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.
In return, the Twins received two pitchers: Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.
Here are the details, according to MLB Trade Rumors:
Ryan is 25 years old and was a seventh-round pick for the Rays in the 2018 draft. He cracked Baseball America’s top 100 list (at 98th) prior to the 2020 season, and Ryan has continued his rise up the ladder by posting a 3.63 ERA over 57 innings at Triple-A Durham this year.
The 24-year-old Strotman was a fourth-rounder in the 2017 draft, though his pro career has been limited to 179 innings thanks to the canceled 2020 minor league season and a Tommy John surgery that kept him out of action for big chunks of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns. The Rays saw enough from Strotman that they added him to their 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and Strotman has looked solid in posting a 3.39 ERA over 58 1/3 Triple-A innings this year.
Cruz wasn’t in the lineup on Thursday and it showed as the Twins produced a mostly punchless effort and lost to the L.A. Angels, 3-2. Kenta Maeda made a quality start, but he took the loss because he made one mistake, serving up a three-run homer to Jack Mayfield, the No. 9 hitter in the Angels lineup.
Other than that, Maeda pitched well, going seven innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Reliever Danny Coulombe pitched two scoreless innings with four strikeouts and yet the Twins could do no better than two runs on six hits.
J.A. Happ gets the ball on Friday.
-Cruz was the Twins’ clubhouse leader, so who will fill those shoes now? If the Twins are going to look to a veteran, it would be Josh Donaldson. But it will be interesting to see if the younger players rally around Donaldson and if the iconoclast embraces his new role.
-More comments from Cruz and others, according to MLB.com.
“This is meant with no disrespect to anybody else, but he may be the best teammate I’ve ever seen in terms of the way he goes about his business, the way he puts his arm around people, the way he helps us become better in our front office jobs and coaching staff jobs,” executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. “This guy is beyond special.”
“When I saw Nelson sleeping, I said, ‘It’s like my dad sleeping right now. I can’t do something bad because he’s going to get angry,'” Luis Arraez said. “I love Nelson. I love him. He’s like a big part of my family.”
“This is a first-class organization all the way from the top to the bottom,” Cruz said. “From the coaching staff, the media, the trainers, the clubbies, front office staff, even the guys who work on the field, it’s definitely a nice place to be around. Definitely makes you feel part of the family, makes you feel comfortable and makes you fight for the cause, the city.”
I would like to thank the fans, Twins' ownership, the press, the city, the coaching staff, everyone in the clubhouse and last but not least, my teammates. I am truly grateful to have played alongside you. Minnesota even though it was a short stay you are very special to me.
— Nelson Cruz (@ncboomstick23) July 23, 2021