The Rays got a head start on the MLB trade deadline frenzy on Thursday by acquiring designated hitter Nelson Cruz from the Twins.
Tampa Bay has sent pitchers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman to Minnesota for Cruz, who will instantly add offense to a team that’s already in the American League’s first half in scoring. Tampa Bay also acquired minor league pitcher Calvin Faucher as part of the deal.
Minnesota, meanwhile, are starting their midseason sale after failing to wrestle in the first half.
Sporting News notes the movement for both teams.
Tampa Bay landed one of the best rentals in the 2021 commercial market. Cruz’s name had been in the rumor for weeks, and the Rays had already been interested in him; they pursued Cruz when he was a free agent after the 2018 season. He instead signed with the Twins.
Cruz’s age (41) and remaining salary (around $ 5 million) is a minor concern for a franchise trying to return to the World Series. The Rays get one of the best DHs in the game. Cruz entered Thursday with a .294 / .370 / .537 (.907 OPS) slash line and led the club with 19 home runs and 50 RBIs.
It was not immediately clear whether the Twins would send money to the Rays to cover some or all of Cruz’s salary.
Tampa Bay used a DH rotation this year with Austin Meadows getting the majority of at-bat, but that should change with Cruz’s arrival on board. He is unlikely to play in the outfield for his new team; the Rays have Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier, Randy Arozarena and Brett Phillips on the active roster. Manuel Margot is on the IL. Infielders Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle can play the outfield if needed.
Twins: B +
Minnesota has acquired two potential spinners for a future free agent. Ryan was 10th and Strotman 17th in the MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Rays before the trade. Faucher had a 7.04 Double-A ERA, so the Twins did not throw up a top prospect.
Ryan, 25, posted a 3.63 ERA in 57 innings in 12 games (11 starts) for Triple-A Durham this year. More importantly, he allowed just 35 hits and an average of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings to 1.6 walks per nine. This type of command will play at the MLB level.
Strotman, 24, was less efficient but still good for Durham: a 3.39 ERA in 58 1/3 innings in 13 games (12 starts), with 9.6 Ks per nine. Its control is however a problem: it has an average of 5.1 steps out of nine.
Next up for Minnesota: Discuss possible deals involving other key elements, such as third baseman Josh Donaldson, No.1 starter Jose Berrios and starters JA Happ and Michael Pineda.