Breaking Down Which Team Won the Nelson Cruz Trade

By Anthony Haage in Sports
| July 29, 2021 9:51 am PDT

The Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays have made a trade ahead of the MLB trade deadline, which is coming up on July 30th.

Both teams now have clear paths as to which direction they are taking at the deadline, with the Rays buying, and the Twins selling.

The Twins are currently 17.5 games back of first place in the AL Central, while the Rays are 1.0 game back behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Their stances going into the trade deadline don’t come to much of a surprise with their current place in their standings.

In fact, a prospective Cruz deal was among the top MLB trades that could happen by the 2021 deadline.

Cruz’s teammate Byron Buxton is having an incredible season, but outside of him and Cruz, the Twins have been slacking offensively. Their offense has been their strong suit in recent years, but they have taken a step back this year and they are headed towards a rebuild.

As for the Rays, they have been bouncing in and out of first place in their division and they are gearing up for a World Series revenge tour. They acquired one of the best power hitters in baseball and now have a very dangerous offensive lineup.

The deal made plenty of sense for both sides, but who won the Nelson Cruz trade? Let’s take a closer look at this deal, and what it means for both the Twins and the Rays.

How Nelson Cruz Helps the Rays

Cruz was always going to stay in the American League, as he is useless defensively and needs to be rostered as a DH.

Despite that and being 41 years old, Cruz is still producing great offensive numbers. Take a look at Cruz’s 2021 production prior to the trade.

AVG OBP SLG HR wRC+ RUNS RBI
.294 .370 .537 19 142 44 50

Cruz is on pace for another season of 35+ home runs. He was on pace for that total in a shortened 2020 season, so if you count that season, this should be his 8th straight year with 35+ home runs.

Cruz will now join a lethal Rays’ offense that is ranked 12th in the league in wRC+ (101). Cruz’s right-handed bat will fit perfectly into the Rays offense. Their offense has a good number of lefties such as Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows, Ji-Man Choi, Joey Wendle, and Kevin Kiermaier.

Cruz will join the Rays’ other righties like Randy Arozarena, Mike Zunino, and Yandy Diaz. This lineup is very flexible and the Rays will be able to produce runs on any given day.

The ballpark factors for the Rays and Twins are similar, so Cruz’s numbers should remain in the same range as he was on pace for.

The Twins also did not send any money alongside Cruz in this trade, so the Rays will be paying the remainder of his 2021 salary. His adjusted salary with the Rays comes out to $5,102,116.

As for Calvin Foucher, he hasn’t been consistent in the minors. He was drafted in the 10th round by the Twins in the 2017 Amateur draft and is pitching to an ERA of 7.04. It might be a while until we hear about him again.

What Did the Twins Get in the Trade?

Twins fans may be unhappy about trading away their favorite DH, but they got a great return for him.

The Twins knew that they were very unlikely contenders for the MLB postseason this year, so they bit the bullet and traded Cruz away before they lost him to free agency.

Here’s what they got in the haul.

  • Joe Ryan – Pitcher
  • Drew Strotman – Pitcher

Joe Ryan is now ranked at #6 in the Twins’ prospect rankings, while Drew Strotman comes in at #13. That is quite a haul for a player who is a free agent at the end of the year and a prospect who hasn’t panned out yet.

The Twins have three prospects within MLB pipelines’ top 100. Shortstop Royce Lewis is their best prospect, ranked 13th in the top 100, while Jordan Balazovic ranks 75th and Jhoan Duran ranks 79th.

Minnesota now has 8 right-handed pitchers ranked within their team’s top 15.

The Twins lost one of the best power bats in baseball, but they beefed up their pitching considerably. Considering that has been a huge problem area for them for years, it’s hard to say they didn’t get better in this deal.

More Potential Twins and Rays Trades

While this may end up being the biggest trade for the Twins this year, it’s arguable they are not done selling just yet.

Tampa Bay clearly has title-winning aspirations, too. Making a move for someone of Cruz’s stature says that loud and clear, while the Rays were literally in the World Series last year.

It’s possible both teams have more trades in front of them. Here’s a quick look at what both could shoot for prior to the deadline.

Potential Twins Trades

The Twins have more players who become free agents at the end of this year and are likely to be traded as well. These players include SS Andrelton Simmons, SP Michael Pineda, SP J.A Happ, and RP Hansel Robles.

No player is safe through this year’s trade deadline as the Twins look to rebuild.

Valuable players such as 3B Josh Donaldson, 1B Miguel Sano, SP Kenta Maeda, or even SP Jose Berrios could be on the move.

Trading all these players could revamp the Twins prospect rankings and have them looking towards a brighter future.

Potential Rays Trades

The Rays already made another deal with the Mets, sending pitcher Rich Hill to the Mets for reliever Tommy Hunter and catching prospect Matt Dyer to the Rays.

Tampa Bay will likely be making more trades as they gear up even more for the postseason, but the Rich Hill trade comes at an interesting time. Still, the Rays should be among the top buyers at the 2021 MLB trade deadline.

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They recently lost their other starting pitcher, Tyler Glasnow, to injury and he is unlikely to return until very late in the season. They should target some more pitchers at the deadline, as they normally do anyways.

The Rays are very good at trading and this trade deadline should be no different.

Which Team Won the Nelson Cruz Trade?

This trade is good all around. The Rays now have one of the best offenses in baseball and are likely headed to a postseason run. The Twins are calling it quits in 2021 and got some great pitching prospects.

To declare a winner of the trade right now is premature, as the Rays will get production immediately, and the Twins’ prospects will take a year or two to see the debuts of their new pitchers.

Tampa Bay gets a reliable slugger that boosts their chances of winning a championship this year, but a 41-year-old Cruz is not a long-term asset.

Minnesota was already going nowhere, so acquiring quality young pitching prospects makes this a successful deal for them.

It’s very arguable that both sides won this trade, but if Cruz’s arrival can lead the Rays to a title this year, it’s fair to say that’d be the right way to lean.

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