The Twins are looking into a number of available free agents, perhaps most notably slugger Nelson Cruz. Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first to report Minnesota’s interest in Cruz, with MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park noting that there is indeed “mutual interest” between the two parties (both links to Twitter). Beyond Cruz, the Twins are also “kicking the tires” on Wilson Ramos, Trevor Cahill, and Joakim Soria, according to 1500ESPN.com’s Darren Wolfson (Twitter link).
It’s an intriguing mix of players to pursue for a team that underachieved in 2018, though with the AL Central still a thin division (and even the first-place Indians exploring selling talent), there’s certainly room for Minnesota to make a move to return to contention next season. Signing Cruz or Ramos would be the biggest steps in that direction, as either player would require a significant commitment, though Cruz’s deal would be somewhat limited in length by his age.
In the wake of Joe Mauer’s retirement and Logan Morrison’s declined option, there is room for a DH to take some at-bats in Minnesota’s lineup. The Twins have already added C.J. Cron to their first base mix, and as Park notes, GM Thad Levine recently pointed to the DH spot as an area that could use an addition, beyond just the Twins’ internal options.
While many teams prefer to rotate players through the designated hitter spot as a way to keep everyone fresh, an exception could certainly be made for a hitter of Cruz’s caliber. The 38-year-old hit .256/.342/.509 with 37 homers for the Mariners last season, showing little sign of slowing down as he approaches his 40’s. Despite this production, it might be a stretch for Cruz to land a three-year deal, though a two-year deal on a high average annual salary is very feasible. MLBTR predicted Cruz for a two-year, $30MM and actually had him landing with the Twins. Several of the other teams mentioned as potential landing spots (the White Sox, Astros, Rays) have also been linked to Cruz’s market this offseason, as there aren’t a ton of potential contenders with an open DH spot.
Ramos would be the second notable catcher signing in as many years for the Twins, who inked Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5MM contract last winter. Unfortunately, the 2018 season ended up as a disastrous one for Castro, who played just 19 games before succumbing to knee surgery. Since Ramos is no stranger to knee injuries himself, the Twins could also use their DH spot to use Ramos as an everyday player at either designated hitter or catcher, with Castro behind the plate whenever Ramos was elsewhere in the lineup.
Both Cahill and Soria have each drawn their fair share of interest in the offseason, and each would fit well on a Minnesota team that is looking to reinforce both its rotation and bullpen. Cahill revived his stock with a quality season for the A’s in 2018, while Soria pitched well both as a closer for the White Sox and then in a setup role for the Brewers. Soria could also factor into the Twins’ ninth-inning mix. It’s worth noting that Levine is quite familiar with ex-Rangers Soria and Cruz, as both played for Texas when Levine was the team’s assistant general manager.