Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Nationals, Nelson Cruz agree to one-year, $15 million deal, per reports

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The Washington Nationals have agreed to sign free agent designated hitter Nelson Cruz, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal is for one year and $12 million with a mutual option for 2023 that includes a $3 million buyout, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, making this essentially a $15 million deal. 

Cruz, 41, joins his seventh team and, interestingly, it’s his first NL team. Last season, between the Twins and Rays, Cruz hit .265/.334/.497 (130 OPS+) with 32 homers and 86 RBI in 584 plate appearances. He hit 16 homers in 53 games in 2020 and 41 in 120 games in 2019. Even at his age, he’s one of the premier home-run hitters in baseball. 

Cruz surely saw an uptick in his market once the new CBA was put into place, as the universal designated hitter is now in baseball permanently. 

Cruz, who swings right handed, will surely bat immediately behind left-handed slugger Juan Soto in the Nationals’ lineup. Switch hitter Josh Bell is likely to follow Cruz, then. 

The Nationals are coming off a season in which they lost 97 games and don’t necessarily look like a contender right now. The offseason isn’t over, though, and a one-year deal means they could always flip Cruz in front of the trade deadline if they aren’t in contention. 

This is Cruz’s second stint in the Beltway area. He was an All-Star with the Orioles in 2014, when he led the majors with 40 homers. 

Cruz enters the season with 449 career homers, good for 40th on the all-time list. He has an outside shot to become the 29th player in history to reach 500 this year, but more likely he’ll need to play in 2023 to have a shot. 

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