The Twins have dealt with injuries all season — from Byron Buxton’s three stints on the injured list, to Miguel Sano missing 49 days to start the season — but it feels like the left wrist injury Nelson Cruz suffered Thursday was one of the toughest the organiztion has had to deal with.
An injury to the same wrist landed Cruz on the injured list for three weeks in May. This time, the word is that Cruz will see a specialist in New York to see whether or not he can play the rest of the season with a torn tendon in his wrist, and there is some positive news that it might be possible.
But if it isn’t, the 39-year-old might be done for the year.
The Twins have to hope that isn’t the case because Cruz was on one of the hottest streaks of any hitter to wear a Twins uniform before he injured himself swinging and missing at a Mike Clevinger fastball.
In the 15 games before his injury, Cruz was hitting .426 (23-for-54) with 13 home runs, 27 RBI and 18 runs.
It was once again showing that Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine had really outmaneuvered the rest of the AL in bringing Cruz into the Twins.
Cruz had hit more home runs than any player in baseball from 2009 to ’18 and Falvey said that during the offseason a ton of clubs went after the six-time All-Star.
“Oh yeah, a lot of clubs,” Falvey said before Cruz suffered his injury. “I don’t know specifics about what teams were interested and offered but I know that teams that are competing for the playoffs right now were certainly in the conversation.”
The Twins’ move to sign Cruz when so many other teams were angling for him might be the biggest free-agent signing of 2019.
Team-friendly terms in 2020
Cruz signed a one-year deal worth $14 million this season with a club option for $12 million for 2020 or a $300,000 buyout. That club option seems to be a near lock to be picked up as there is simply no doubt Cruz could get more than $12 million on the open market.
And for that relatively small contract, the Twins have gotten massive production. The biggest free-agent contracts in the offseason went to Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper ($330 million for 13 years) and San Diego’s Manny Machado ($300 million for 10).
“We have him under club control for next year,” Falvey said. “So that is something you do that every offseason [pick up club options], but suffice to say everything he has done so far, we are happy about.”
What has been incredible is that Cruz has not only lived up to his steady play over the past decade, but he has even exceeded it.
His .384 on-base percentage, .660 slugging percentage and 1.035 OPS are all the highest marks of his career while his .294 batting average is the third highest mark of his career.
“He has done like this his whole career, the last 10 years, I will take it, believe me,” Falvey said. “What he has done, he has done everything we’ve asked of him, and then some.”
Cruz wanted to be a Twin
Falvey said one of the most rewarding parts of Cruz’s success is that he wanted to be here.
One thing that helped the decision for Cruz was that he was familiar with Twins General Manager Thad Levine from their days with Texas, but also from the 2014 season, when he played in Baltimore with second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
The signing of Cruz was a big turning point for the offseason, and Falvey said that it also was a nice notice for the club.
“He was highly sought-after by a number of teams for all of the reasons we know. He chose us,” Falvey said. “He had other opportunities on the board but he felt like this was a really good fit. We told him about our club. He liked the young players on our team, so he wanted to sign here. That’s how we finished it up.”
Cruz had great success in Seattle from 2015 to ’18, averaging more than 40 homers and 100 RBI per season. But the Mariners’ highest finish in the division over that stretch was second and they didn’t reach the playoffs. On top of that, the club was looking to rebuild despite an 87-win season in 2018.
Falvey said he thought that the Twins’ improving young roster was a real draw for Cruz.
“I think he was looking for a situation where he could impact a young team that was really in a great competitive position,” the Twins executive said. “That’s no disrespect to the other teams, but I think he was looking for the right fit and the right kind of environment. This was it.”
Falvey said that when the deal was finally done to get Cruz into a Twins uniform, he had a great memory of their conversation.
“When he finally agreed and we knew we were done with the contract, he said let’s go win a lot of baseball games and find a way to play playoff baseball,” Falvey said. “That’s what I remember.”
Now the only question is if Cruz can get back soon enough to keep the Twins’ playoff push going.
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