Nelson Cruz going back to Minnesota
The AL Central has been mostly quiet this winter, with the biggest move being their biggest star — Francisco Lindor — being traded out of the division. The White Sox had been the most active team and likely set themselves as the favorites, but the Twins are looking to stay atop that division themselves. They went a long way towards keeping that spot on the mantle late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with Nelson Cruz to come back to Minnesota. He’ll earn $13 million on the deal.
The timing of this deal is certainly not coincidental, with it looking like negotiations are dead for any 2021 changes between the league and players. It’s possible things still open up, but the DH-types like Cruz probably had to realize if the NL market was going to open up it will be after camp opens. That limited his options and made Minnesota the choice that made the most sense by far.
This partnership has worked for both sides over the last couple of seasons, though. This will be Cruz’s third season with the Twins, and in the first two he finished with wRC+’s of 163 and 164, respectively. Only Mike Trout has been a better hitter over that stretch by that metric. With the move, the Twins now have solidified the middle of their lineup, and likely their lineup as a whole with this combined with the Andrelton Simmons signing. The White Sox are still good, but the competition atop this division should be fun to follow this year.
As for the Red Sox, there really isn’t much of an effect here. They certainly weren’t going to target Cruz when they already have J.D. Martinez. The only possible effect would be if they were shopping Martinez as Cruz coming off the board would theoretically open up that market a bit, but there’s little reason to expect a Martinez trade, particularly with the NL DH being more unlikely than ever.
Chris Archer heads back to the Rays
It was a day of reunions on Tuesday, apparently. The Rays have brought back their old friend Chris Archer, signing him to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million. Archer, of course, pitched in Tampa to start his career, making his debut in 2012 and then getting traded to Pittsburgh in 2018. That deal is now infamous as one of the most lopsided deals of all time, with the Rays getting Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and prospect Shane Baz in return for Archer, who was unproductive his entire time in Pittsburgh.
The Rays are hoping they can get some of his old magic out of the arm, which to be fair is something at which they’ve typically excelled. Archer hasn’t really been much better than average since 2015, though, which obviously dates back well into his first tenure in Tampa. The Rays clearly needed rotation help this year however they could get it. Glasnow is still atop their rotation, but this winter they have lost Charlie Morton in free agency and traded Blake Snell to San Diego, putting two big holes in their rotation. They’re likely counting on some prospect help this summer, because those two guys so far have been replaced by Archer and Michael Wacha.
Archer had seemed like a natural target for the Red Sox this year given Chaim Bloom and the Rays connection there. I’m not overly upset about going in another direction, though, as he has shown little reason for confidence over the last handful of years. It certainly wouldn’t be shocking if Tampa was able to get another level out of him this year, but it would’ve been harder seeing Boston achieve that.
Orioles trade Alex Cobb to the Angels
The Rays weren’t the only AL East team to make a pitching move this week, though in this case it’s a team shipping out one of their pitchers. Specifically, Baltimore continues to strip down their roster by sending Alex Cobb out west to the Angels in exchange for prospect Jahmai Jones, with Baltimore eating about half of the $15 million owed to Cobb this season.
This is a pretty straight forward deal, I think. The Angels are still trying to build a winner around Mike Trout, which they’ve failed at year after year. Pitching has been their biggest weakness, and while Cobb is certainly not a star he can provide serviceable innings in the back of their rotation. He joined José Quintana as newcomers in that rotation. Last season he pitched to a 4.30 in 10 starts, which comes out to being slightly better than average after adjusting for park.
On the other side, the Orioles really have no interest in competing any time soon and frankly they would probably be fine if they just didn’t have to field a roster at all this year. They have worked diligently to move on from anyone halfway interesting on the roster that is not in a pre-arb deal, also trading José Iglesias to the Angels earlier this winter while non-tendering Hanser Alberto. They are in an extreme rebuild, and in fairness to them they get an interesting prospect here in Jones. He has seen his stock drop a bit the last couple of years, but he’s also a former second rounder who was once a top 100 prospect with what was concerned a significant ceiling.
And for the Red Sox, well, they may not be good this year but at least it’s hard to see how they could be worse than the Orioles.
Sean Doolittle signs with the Reds
Finally, we have a small major-league deal for Sean Doolittle in Cincinnati. The lefty will get a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. This fills a hole in the Reds bullpen after losing midseason acquisition Archie Bradley to free agency and trading long-time closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels.
Doolittle is one of my favorite humans in the league, so I certainly wouldn’t have been upset if the Red Sox made this deal. But at the same time, I understand not going for it. I’m of the mind that they don’t really need a lefty in the bullpen — if there’s one they like, by all means, but it’s not a hole that must be filled — with Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor filling that role. And for Doolittle specifically, he just hasn’t been the same guy the last couple of years. To be fair 2020 was a small sample even relative to everyone else as he made just 11 appearances, but his stuff had started to decline the year before, too. I’d love to see him prove me wrong, but ultimately I think the 34-year-old might just not have it anymore.