Nelson Cruz agrees to one-year deal with Twins (sources)


MINNEAPOLIS — It took until February, but the Twins finally got their man back.
Nelson Cruz is headed back to Minnesota on a one-year, $13 million contract, pending a physical, sources told MLB.com Tuesday night. It took longer than many expected for the deal to get done considering both sides

MINNEAPOLIS — It took until February, but the Twins finally got their man back.

Nelson Cruz is headed back to Minnesota on a one-year, $13 million contract, pending a physical, sources told MLB.com Tuesday night. It took longer than many expected for the deal to get done considering both sides expressed interest in a reunion immediately after the end of the 2020 season. But in the end, Cruz still ended up back in Minneapolis, where he made a huge mark over two seasons as an easy fan favorite and focal point of the team.

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It’s a reunion that made sense for both sides. Cruz was the Twins’ best hitter over the last two seasons and provided consistent power and average from the heart of the lineup, featuring prominently in the 2019 “Bomba Squad” that set MLB’s single-season record for home runs. Cruz also made it known that he liked his situation in Minnesota, where he was part of a contending roster and felt comfortable with the organization and the clubhouse.

Even as he crossed the 40-year mark in age, Cruz showed no signs of slowing down at the plate — and, in fact, has picked up his performance on many levels.

Cruz originally signed with the Twins before the 2019 season and posted two of the best seasons of his career, leading the club in homers and OPS in both campaigns as the Twins claimed consecutive American League Central championships. His OPS+ marks of 168 and 169 in the last two seasons were the highest full-season marks of his career, and he received national recognition with a pair of top 10 finishes in AL MVP Award voting and Silver Slugger Awards.

Across two seasons in Minnesota, Cruz hit .308/.394/.626 with 57 homers in 173 games. After receiving $14 million in 2019, it wasn’t a tough decision for the Twins to exercise his $12 million club option for ’20 — and to bring him back at a similar price in ’21.

It’s even more important to have Cruz in the Twins’ clubhouse as a leadership figure for many of the young players on the heavily international roster, particularly to fellow Dominican slugger Miguel Sanó, who had the best season of his career in ’19 under Cruz’s wing and earned a contract extension as a result.

The stability and voice Cruz brings to the clubhouse could be even more vital this season, when the Twins could call up several of their top prospects for meaningful roles on what they hope to be a playoff-bound team for the third straight year in the face of increasing competition from the White Sox.

Cruz also matched the Twins’ emphasis on community service with his dedication to charitable efforts in the Dominican Republic, for which he earned the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award and the 2020 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.

Still, it wasn’t a reunion that came quickly, especially considering the uncertainty in whether the designated hitter would return in the National League for the 2021 season, which would have broadened the market of teams in search of Cruz’s services. That’s a situation that appeared to gain more clarity on Monday, when the league announced that the MLB Players’ Association had rejected a proposal for ’21 that would have included both a delayed start to the season and the universal DH, among other plans. The agreement with Cruz came not long after that, late Tuesday night.

Cruz’s return should mostly complete the Twins’ offense, which also added shortstop Andrelton Simmons on a one-year deal last week, pushing Jorge Polanco to second base and Luis Arraez to the vacant utility position. Minnesota also added right-hander Hansel Robles and left-hander J.A. Happ this offseason and could be in the market for additional pitching help to round out their offseason haul.

The 2021 Twins are finally taking shape — with their most productive hitter finally back in the fray.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.





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