Nelson Cruz and the Twins have recently restarted talks on a new contract for the slugger, The Athletic’s Dan Hayes reports. Cruz had been looking for a two-year contract, but “the possibility of a one-year accord [is] now on the table” in his current discussions with Minnesota, Hayes writes.
Despite mutual interest in a continued relationship, there hasn’t been much action between Cruz and the Twins this offseason since both sides were fairly entrenched in their positions. The team didn’t want to pay too much money and give more than one guaranteed year to a player who turns 41 in July, especially when a DH-only player like Cruz is (at the moment) limited to only American League teams. From Cruz’s perspective, he was hopeful that his market could expand to NL teams if the universal DH was implemented, and as a result was looking for a two-year contract commensurate with his continued outstanding production.
Since there isn’t yet any movement towards the NL getting the designated hitter in 2021, that could explain why Cruz’s representatives have re-engaged with the Twins, and why there have be some flexibility from Cruz’s original two-year ask. As Hayes notes, however, the two sides still have to “common ground on a salary,” which may not be simple since the Twins would ideally like to both re-sign Cruz and still have money left over to obtain more pitching. Minnesota has weighed such alternate strategies as focusing all of its available payroll space on pitching and either letting its internal options handle the DH spot, or perhaps signing a cheaper alternative to Cruz — Hayes notes that Edwin Encarnacion has been considered as a possibility.
Or, in separate direction entirely, the Twins have also “floated” the idea of another free agent signing in Marcell Ozuna. Such a move would pivot the club away from a pitching search, since Ozuna would be both pricier than Cruz and require at least a three-year contract. Ozuna is over a decade younger than Cruz, of course, and while Ozuna might become a DH-only type in the future, Minnesota could deploy him as a part-time outfielder for at least a season or two. It’s probably safe to assume that Ozuna is something of a Plan C for the Twins, just in case an agreement couldn’t be reached with either Cruz or any notable pitching targets.