Minnesota Twins land impressive haul for Nelson Cruz

Jul 19, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning of a Game 1 of the doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 19, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning of a Game 1 of the doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nelson Cruz was one of the more popular players on the trade block. With the Minnesota Twins clearly out of contention in both the AL Central and the Wild Card, it was a matter of where Cruz would end up, not if he would be traded.

That question was answered on Thursday as the Twins sent Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a four player deal. Cruz and minor league pitcher Calvin Faucher are heading to the Rays for Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

Minnesota Twins get impressive haul for two months of Nelson Cruz

It is clear as to why Cruz was in such demand, even amongst National League teams. He had produced a .294/.370/.537 batting line with 19 homers and 13 doubles in his 346 plate appearances, with his 151 OPS+ ranking fifth in the American League. The Rays’ lineup has produced solid results, but clearly needed another power bat. Cruz fills that void admirably.

Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins /

Minnesota Twins

However, the Twins landed an impressive duo of pitching prospects for essentially two months of Cruz. Both Ryan and Strotman are close to being major league ready, and it would not be a shock to see both in Minnesota at some point this season, especially as the Twins continue to sell.

Ryan may be the first of that pair to reach the majors. He has dominated in Triple-A after putting himself on the prospect map in 2019. He has posted a 3.63 ERA and a 0.789 WHiP in his 57 innings in Durham, striking out 75 batters with only ten walks. His funky delivery, paired with a fastball and slider combo that play up far beyond their velocity, make him an intriguing arm even if he ultimately ends up in a relief role.

Strotman had also been in Triple-A, although he may need more time in the minors due to his relative lack of professional experience. Due to Tommy John surgery and the lost 2020 season, he has just 179 minor league innings since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

He had pitched reasonably well this season, with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.423 WHiP in his 58.1 innings, striking out 62 batters, although he has issued 33 walks. Strotman has displayed solid velocity with his fastball and solid secondary pitches with a cutter and a curve, but his command issues will likely determine his future. If he can harness his stuff, he could be a solid middle of the rotation starter. Otherwise, he has the type of stuff that can turn him into a weapon as a reliever.

For a Twins’ team that is lacking in terms of pitching prospects, Ryan and Strotman are quite the haul. There is some risk of both pitchers ending up in the bullpen, but the potential that they possess was more than enough to part ways with Cruz. It is also possible that the Twins bring Cruz back next season, as he loves the organization and is a free agent after this year.

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The Minnesota Twins have made an expected move in trading Nelson Cruz. Their return was particularly impressive for a two month rental.