Blue Jays: Thank goodness for Thad Levine
Notorious Blue Jay killer Nelson Cruz has signed with the Minnesota Twins, giving Blue Jays fans a genuine reason to extend their sincere thanks to Twins general manager Thad Levine this holiday season…
Nelson Cruz, who in 2014 played for the division rival Baltimore Orioles, has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins on a one-year contract, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Fancred’s Jon Heyman adds that the deal includes an option for the 2020 season.
Though Cruz was never one of the larger, more prominent free-agents on this year’s market, Blue Jays fans everywhere should be thanking the Minnesota Twins and their front office for snagging Cruz before another AL East team could grab him. Juan Toribio of the Athletic tweeted Thursday that the Tampa Bay Rays “made a competitive offer” for Cruz before he signed with the Twins.
Nelson Cruz returning to the American League East would’ve been disastrous for nearly everyone involved. Except, of course, for the team that signed him.
In his lone season in a Baltimore Orioles uniform, Cruz, who turns 39 in July, slashed .271/.333/.525 in 159 games, smashing 40 home runs and driving in a whopping 108 runs while being named an AL All-Star for the third time in his career.
Locally, Nelson Cruz destroyed the Blue Jays during that season, going 22-for-66 against Toronto overall and posting a 1.020 OPS at Rogers Centre in 35 plate appearances.
Even when not with the Orioles, Cruz has always been an enemy of the boys in blue. In 91 career games against the Jays, he’s slashed an incredible .300/.363/.579 with 25 home runs, 12 of those coming at Rogers Centre. At Tropicana Field, the home of the team who’d hoped to sign him, he’s a career .272 hitter and has driven in 24 runs in 33 games.
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More broadly, Cruz, who is a career .274 hitter in over 1500 major league games, has slashed a cumulative .290/.362/.535 (with a wRC+ of 141 in 1501 at-bats) against American League East opponents, adding 90 homers, six triples and 85 doubles in AL East parks since his career began in 2005 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. He has since appeared in games for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
In 2019, the Blue Jays will face the Rays 19 times, as per usual. Conversely, they’ll only play the Twins, Cruz’s new team, nine times, with the majority of those games coming within the first quarter of the season. In 2018 against the Blue Jays, Cruz posted an OPS of 1.040 in 30 plate appearances across seven games. Adding any more games to that tally would cause nothing but harm for this team.
Though it may not be the most groundbreaking removal of a player from a divisional setting, not having to face Nelson Cruz so many times during the 2019 season is surely a positive.