The Seattle Mariners lost another veteran player when free-agent designated hitter Nelson Cruz agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Cruz, 38, hit 163 home runs over the past four seasons with the Mariners and provides the Twins with power they’ve been looking for. In the last five years, he’s has more homers (203) than any other player in Major League Baseball.
During that time, Cruz hit at least 40 homers in a season three times. When Brian Dozier hit 42 homers in 2016 it was the first time a Twins player reached 40 since Harmon Killebrew in 1970.
Cruz also had three 100 RBIs seasons over the past five years. The last time the Twins had a player drive in that many runs was Josh Willingham with a 110 in 2012.
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According to a major league source, Cruz will get a one-year contract worth $14.3 million with a club option for 2020 worth $12 million. The Twins’ policy is to wait until a player passes a physical before making deals official.
The Tampa Bay Rays were among teams also interested in Cruz.
On his Twitter (@ncboomstick23) and Instagram accounts, Cruz posted a message that read, in part:
“I would like to thank the Mariners ownership especially (owner) John (Stanton) for all you have done for me and my hometown, the organization, the coaching staff … and most importantly the fans for all of your support over the last four seasons. Seattle, you hold a special place in my heart as you embraced me from the start even when skeptics said I would not succeed in a pitcher friendly park.”
Cruz, a six-time All-Star, hit 37 home runs for Seattle last season after leading the AL with 119 RBIs in 2017; he made the All-Star team both years. He is the third power bat added by the Twins during the offseason. First baseman C.J. Cron (30 home runs for Tampa Bay) was picked up off waivers and free agent second baseman Jonathan Schoop (32 for Baltimore in 2017) got a one-year, $7.5 million deal.
A native of the Dominican Republic who became an American citizen, Cruz has 360 career home runs. Before Seattle, Cruz was in Baltimore for one season (an AL-leading 40 home runs in 2014) and Texas for eight seasons, after breaking in with Milwaukee.
Although he had 97 RBIs and hit .256 last season in 519 at bats, Cruz’s homer totals have gone down minimally each of the past four seasons, and his batting average has been on a steady decline, too. Cruz’s .256 last season was a drop from .288 the year before and .302 in 2015.
The Twins didn’t have DH high on their list of priorities this offseason, but indicated they would welcome someone like Cruz for the right price. Cruz’s relationship with general manager Thad Levine, from their time with the Rangers, undoubtedly played a role in him coming to the Twin Cities.
The Mariners have now lost four regulars from their 2018 lineup – Cruz, second baseman Robinson Cano, shortstop Jean Segura and catcher Mike Zunino – in addition to outfielders Ben Gamel and Denard Span.