At 38 years-old it seems as though Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz is still in his prime and could play until age 47, much like Julio Franco did.
There have been few baseball players to withstand the test of time in recent baseball history. Few because either their body breaks down on them as they age or few because no team is willing to sign them, instead of bringing in younger, cheaper talent. If there is a player out there who can play well into his 40s, it’s Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz.
Julio Franco played until he was 48 years-old and contributed enough the Atlanta Braves kept bringing him back for more. Franco hit .309 in 125 games as a 45-year-old and as a 47-year-old made just one error in over two hundred chances playing the field.
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If there was a player playing today who is approaching his 40s who I would have confidence in playing until he was 48, I’d go with Nelson Cruz.
In the five years spanning 2014-2018 at ages 33-37, Cruz averaged 153 games a season and was an All-Star four times. Last year he battled some injury issues, playing in just 120 games, but was able to crank out 41 home runs. There will be no question of Cruz producing as he crosses the 40-year-old threshold.
Unlike Franco, Cruz has been able to save wear and tear on his body by not playing a defensive position. Playing solely in the American League he has been able to avoid extra miles on his legs and damage to his knees, by only playing one side of the ball. He’s available to make an occasional spot start in the outfield, though it is unnecessary.
At age 39 this spring, Nelson Cruz was off to a torrid start at the plate. In just twenty-three at-bats he had three home runs and was hitting a crisp .435, showing there is no slowing down in this guy.
Cruz will be a free agent at the end of the year and he may be in line for a string of one-year contracts. The way he played last year for the Minnesota Twins, they may be inclined to bring him back on another two year deal like the one he is on now.
There are a lot of variables involved, yes, and a lot can happen between now and nine years from now when Cruz turns 48. He may not even want to play that long. I’m just saying, given the opportunity, he’ll reward whomever his employer is for the better part of the next decade.