The Tampa Bay Rays will not be signing free agent slugger Nelson Cruz.
The 38-year old Designated Hitter has chosen to spend the next year in the American League Central with the Minnesota Twins, who will have a second year option on his contract.
Nelson Cruz agrees to Twins deal. 1 year plus option.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 27, 2018
With the Rays payroll still $20 million shy of last year’s opening day amount, to see Nelson Cruz go to another team on a one-year deal is, to put it mildly, disappointing. Depressing, even.
The Rays had previously handed out the highest MLB contract in team history to Charlie Morton this off-season at $15 million per season. Cruz cost less than that.
Most disappointing for Rays fans is seeing that that Twins were able to sign him for one year with a team option and very modest buyout. We understand that that Rays are likely to get outbid on free agents who are insisting on multiyear contracts. Cruz, however, was clearly willing to forgo that second year, and yet the Rays apparently failed to make a compelling offer.
Nelson Cruz’s deal with the Minnesota Twins is Worth $14 million guaranteed in the first year, source tells Yahoo Sports. There is a $12 million club option with a $300K buyout. My main man @Enrique_Rojas1 had the financials first.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 27, 2018
How can we explain the Rays failure to sign a player many saw as a key target?
1. Per reporting from Marc Topkin, the Rays were hoping to offer something in the $10 million range for Cruz, and perhaps they stuck to their valuation. However, it’s not surprising that $10 million did not seal the deal. Earlier this fall, MLB Trade Rumors projected that Cruz would sign for 2 years/$30 million.
2. If indeed that was the Rays thinking, they apparently did not trust Cruz to replicate his 134 wRC+ from 2018. Worth noting — Cruz fell to a 116 wRC+ in the second half, on a consistent downward trend. Perhaps Rays scouts and analysts thought that slowdown was indicative of a real decline and not just one-off injuries.
3. Of course it’s possible that the Rays did make a similar financial office but Cruz chose the Twins for whatever reasons. Maybe he calculates that he will fare better against AL Central than AL East pitching. Maybe he likes playing April games in the snow.
Any way you slice it, the dollar price seems fair for a consistent, elite hitter. This will be a tough pill for Rays fans to swallow.
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