Veteran slugger Nelson Cruz had a down year with the Nationals in 2022 and turned 42 over the summer, but the seven-time All-Star doesn’t appear to be considering retirement. Cruz said in a radio appearance on Grandes en los Deportes in his native Dominican Republic that he’s already received formal offers for the 2023 season (Twitter link). As one would expect, Cruz did not reveal which team or teams have made him an offer, nor did he divulge additional details on the nature of said offers.
Following the season, Cruz underwent surgery on his left eye — a procedure intended to alleviate inflammation that had blurred his vision. Cruz noted at the time that he’d had issues with the eye dating back to the 2021 season, though they worsened considerably over the course of his 2022 season. Specifically, Cruz explained that he’d had difficulty picking up the spin on pitches.
Whether due to the vision troubles, his age or some combination of the two, Cruz indeed had his worst season since establishing himself as a big league regular way back in 2008. Signed by the Nationals to a one-year, $15MM contract in March, Cruz went on to bat just .234/.313/.337. He homered just ten times as a National — far and away his lowest total in any of his 14 seasons as a regular. Cruz even homered 16 times during the 60-game 2020 season and had otherwise never hit fewer than 22 long balls in a full big league campaign.
Prior to his one-year stint in D.C., Cruz remained a highly productive designated hitter with the Twins. In parts of three seasons with Minnesota, he batted .304/.386/.598 with 76 home runs in 1081 trips to the plate. Minnesota traded Cruz to the Rays in a July 2021 deal that netted them righty Joe Ryan, however, and Cruz began to struggle at the plate with Tampa Bay. The timing of that downturn in production aligns roughly with the timeline Cruz laid out when discussing his eye troubles.
Any team that signs Cruz would likely need a clear vacancy at designated hitter. Cruz hasn’t played an inning in the outfield since 2018 with the Mariners, though the Rays did give him one game (seven innings) at first base late in the 2021 campaign. Still, it’d be a stretch for any of the Dodgers (J.D. Martinez), Red Sox (Justin Turner, with Rafael Devers and Triston Casas at the infield corners), Tigers (Miguel Cabrera), Angels (Shohei Ohtani), Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton), Marlins (Jorge Soler), Giants (Joc Pederson, with Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger in the outfield corners) or Astros (Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker) to squeeze Cruz into the mix, unless he were willing to accept a role as a pure bench bat. That said, given his lack of defensive ability, Cruz may not appeal to clubs as an option off the bench.
Cruz didn’t tip his hand as to when he might make a decision on a team for the forthcoming season and gave no indication as to whether the offers he’s received are ones he is strongly considering. He and agent Bryce Dixon have plenty of time to deliberate, of course, but Cruz has a rather full plate at the moment; he’s serving as the general manager for the Dominican Republic’s team in this year’s World Baseball Classic and also plans to play in the event.