2021 Trade Deadline: Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Rays Beat The Market To The Punch, Fill Their Biggest Need

A week before the MLB trade deadline the Tampa Bay Rays filled one of the largest holes in their lineup by acquiring power hitting designated hitter Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins. In acquiring Cruz the Rays also pick up all of the remaining salary for 2021 (approximately $4.75MM).

The Rays acquired Cruz and minor league right-handed pitcher Calvin Faucher from the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitchers Drew Strotman and Joe Ryan.

“As we were looking through possibilities to help this club, we determined that this was likely the path that would provide the most impact in a single roster spot. It thickens the group,” Rays general manager Erik Neander said on a conference call. “As good a bat as you’re going to find, as good a bat as we’ve had here.”

The Rays desperately needed a middle of the order power bat who could limit strikeouts and be a threat against left-handed pitching. There wasn’t a player on the market that fit this role better than Nelson Cruz, and while the prospect capital utilized to complete the deal is steep, it was necessary to fill the teams most glaring need. For this reason, I will give the Rays an A+ on this deal. Not only did it fill the teams biggest need, but ownership stood up and accepted a large amount of money added to the payroll proving that they are committed to giving the Tampa Bay area the best chance at another championship.

Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher

Nelson Cruz despite turning 41 years old on July 1st has put up an impressive season batting .294/.370/.537 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI spanning 346 plate appearances. In leaving Minnesota the ever classy Cruz tweeted out:

“I would like to thank the fans, Twins’ ownership, the press, the city, the coaching staff, everyone in the clubhouse and last but not least my teammates. I am truly grateful to have played alongside you. Minnesota even though it was a short stay you are very special to me.”

Cruz was somewhat shocked when he heard the news that he had been traded simply saying that it’s something you don’t prepare for but is excited for the opportunity the Rays present. “I play to win, and to have that opportunity is definitely a blessing.”

Faucher, 25, is 11-7 with a 4.64 ERA (159-IP, 82-ER) in 94 appearances, all in relief, over parts of four minor league seasons. He has spent the entire season with Double-A Wichita, going 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA (30.2-IP, 24-ER) in 19 appearances. According to most reports, Faucher throws a 90-91 mile per hour fastball mixing in a curveball and slider.

Twins Acquire Joe Ryan And Drew Strotman

Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman are two close to big league ready right handed pitchers. Ryan, currently in Tokyo with the US Olympic Team, has spent the 2021 season with the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls where he has a 4-3 mark with a 3.63 ERA spanning 57 innings of work where he has struck out 75 batters while walking 10. He gets a lot of swing and miss on his mid-90’s fastball thanks to deception in his delivery. It would not be a surprise to see Ryan debut with Minnesota at some point in the 2021 season.

Drew Strotman underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2018. His rehab went smoothly and he was able to get 24 innings of work in during the 2019 season between the Florida Gulf Coast League and the Rays Low-A affiliate Charlotte Stone Crabs. Despite never advancing past High-A in his brief minor league career he was somewhat of a surprise add to the 40-man roster this past November. He has spent the 2021 season with the Durham Bulls where he has posted a 7-2 mark with a 3.39 ERA. He has struck out an impressive 9.6 batters per nine innings but struggles with command of his arsenal as indicated by his walk rater of 5.1 batters per nine innings.

Ryan checks in on MLB.com Pipelines Twins Top-30 list as their #6 prospect and Strotman lands on the Pipeline Twins Top-30 list at #13.

Cruz Fills A Big Hole In Rays Lineup

Tampa Bay’s offense ranks fifth in the American League in runs per game but struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. Their league ranks against southpaws are as follows: batting average (13th at .226), on-base percentage (13th at .3030), slugging (14th at .380), and on-base plus slugging (13th at .682).

Cruz has a long track record of hitting left-handed pitching batting .300/.387/.575 with 126 homers spanning 2077 plate appearances. This season he’s hitting .362/.410/.600 with six homers spanning 109 plate appearances.

The Rays open play today 1-game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and in first place in the AL Wild Card standings. Cruz has proven in his career to be a threat in the postseason, something the Rays hope to experience again this October. He appeared in two World Series with the Texas Rangers, losing both (2010 vs. Giants, 2011 vs. Cardinals).

In 46 career postseason games, Cruz has slashed .288.360/.659 (49-for-1790 with 17 homers and 37 RBI. According to the Rays press release, for players with a minimum of 150 at-bats, his 1.019 OPS ranks fourth in postseason history behind Albert Pujols (1.030), George Brett (1.023) and Carlos Beltrán (1.021).