In one of the more predictable items of early offseason business, the Twins have decided to exercise their club option over designated hitter Nelson Cruz, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). That decision will not need to be made formally until after the conclusion of the World Series, but it seems the Minnesota organization has already chosen a path.
When Cruz was asked recently about his contract situation, he responded in a manner that almost suggested he would be waiting with baited breath: “I don’t have that call,” he said, “but hopefully they can pick up the option.” But it didn’t take an act of benevolence, or even require much deliberation, for the Minnesota organization to settle upon a return.
This campaign came to a bitterly rapid end, but Cruz was right to note recently that the future seems bright for the Minnesota organization. That’s due primarily to the team’s array of youthful talent, strong farm system, and tidy baseball ops balance sheets. But it’s also based upon the ability to retain Cruz on the heels of a campaign in which he provided valuable leadership and immense offensive production. The veteran DH swatted 41 dingers and turned in a .311/.392/.639 slash during the regular season before producing yet more strong output in the team’s fruitless ALDS appearance.
Cruz was already an elusive free agent bargain, having returned 4.3 wins above replacement (by measure of both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference) at a cost of just $14MM. Now, the Twins get another bite at the apple for just $12MM. (The alternative was to send Cruz back onto the open market with a $300K buyout.) It might have been interesting to debate the open-market value of a 39-year-old DH after such a massive season, and then to see how the situation would play out. But we may safely presume that Cruz would have attracted ample interest at or above that price point, likely over multiple years.