Nelson Cruz will continue smashing baseballs for the Twins.
The veteran slugger on Tuesday night agreed to a one-year, $13 million contract to keep his talents in Minnesota and provide the punch and leadership that has helped the Twins to two consecutive American League Central titles.
A major league source confirmed the agreement.
The Twins and the 40-year-old Cruz expressed interest in continuing their relationship immediately after their season ended with a two-game sweep to the Houston Astros in the first round of the postseason. And why not? In his two seasons with the Twins, Cruz batted .308 with 57 home runs and 141 RBI in 173 games.
But the business side of the sport takes over in the winter, and Cruz's agents waited patiently to see if the National League would add the designated hitter in 2021 after using it for the first time during the 60-game, pandemic shortened 2020 season.
Major League Baseball has dragged its heels on the rule-change decision, and spring training is fast approaching, after players on Monday rejected a plan to push it back a month and shorten the season to 154 games. Rather than waiting to see if his list of suitors would expand and give him a shot at more money — and the two-year deal he wanted — Cruz decided to stay in Minnesota.
In doing so, the Twins probably got a bit of a bargain. And his teammates get the best mentor they could get for one more season.
Cruz, signed in January 2019 to a one-year, $14 million contract with an option which the Twins triggered for a second one at $12 million, turned out to be a bargain at that price. A native of the Dominican Republic, he provided the Twins with two superb seasons, including a 41-homer effort in 2019 that enabled him to join Harmon Killebrew (seven times) and Brian Dozier as the only Twins ever to reach 40.
But though Cruz has eclipsed 40 four times in the past seven seasons, doing so again for the Twins would be a historic achievement. No major league player has ever hit 40 homers after his 40th birthday, which Cruz reached last July. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's 38 home runs in 2016 stands as the MLB record for a 40-year-old, and only Darrell Evans, with 34 for the Tigers in 1987, has even reached 30.
Only Ortiz, Dave Winfield and Harold Baines have ever driven in more than 100 runs after turning 40, and only Ortiz, Stan Musial and Willie Mays produced an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) of more than .900, which Cruz managed in both 2019 and the brief 2020 season, at that age.
The Twins are expected to add a pitcher or two before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 18.