With the offseason picking up steam, it is time to start hearing news that the Tampa Bay Rays are linked to numerous players. The first of those being Nelson Cruz.
With the recent moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays to add five prospects to the 40-man roster the offseason plan has become more clear. They did indeed designate C.J. Cron for assignment on Monday night, making it all the more realistic that they will look for a powerful right-handed hitter this winter.
One of the most obvious options to replace the void left by the absence of Cron would be the 38-year-old free agent right-handed hitter, Nelson Cruz. Per Jon Heyman of Fancred, the Tampa Bay Rays have been tied to Cruz this month.
The Rays aren’t the only suitors though, the White Sox and Astros were also reported to be linked to the six-time all-star.
The aging slugger has shown no real sign of decline over the past few seasons hitting at 37 bombs each season since 2014. Since 2010, Cruz is tied with Giancarlo Stanton with most homers in Major League Baseball, with 305.
His advanced age could actually work towards the Rays advantage as he won’t demand a long-term contract and could demand a more reasonable price compared to the other power hitters on the market like Josh Donaldson.
As I previously mentioned, with Cron being DFA’d, it will become all the more likely the Rays will add a bat like Cruz’s in the coming months. This is not to say that it will definitely be Cruz, but it could be.
There are other options via free agency like Andrew McCutchen or Josh Donaldson. There are also options via trade such as Jose Abreu, Paul Goldschmidt, or Nick Castellanos. It is unclear which of these players, if any will be on the roster come opening day but it is now more likely than ever that at least one of them will be.
As for Cruz, in 2018 he hit .256 with 37 homers while driving in 97 runners, his OPS+ was 135. In 2017, he led the league with 119 RBI’s. It should be pointed out that Cruz had a strikeout percentage 5.3% lower than Cron’s (20.6% vs 25.9%). Cruz also had a higher slugging and on base percentage than Cron.
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It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months as the hot stove burns on. If the Rays do happen to offer Nelson Cruz a contract, I don’t see it exceeding 2 years and 20 million, in reality it could look more like 2 years and 15 million. If the free agent market is suppressed as it was last year, the Rays will benefit and possibly get Cruz at a bargain.