The Twins increase their offer to Nelson Cruz and appear to be in the mix for Trevor Bauer and the Wild pay tribute to a couple of former players. Let’s examine each of these topics.
- Item: Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Friday that “the Twins have upgraded the dollars in their one-year offer to designated hitter Nelson Cruz. But multiple NL teams are showing interest and it’s not surprising he’s waiting to see if a universal DH is adopted.”
- Reaction: Ordinarily this space is in favor of jettisoning aging athletes, but this is one case where an exception should be made. Cruz, who will turn 41 on July 1, has been one of the Twins’ top hitters and an important presence in the clubhouse in his two seasons in Minnesota and letting him walk would be a bad idea. Cruz hit 41 home runs in 454 at-bats and 120 games in 2019 and 16 homers in 185 at-bats and 53 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Cruz’s contract with the Twins was a two-year deal — the second season was a team option — worth $14 million in the first year and $12 million in the second. The Twins would like to go with a one-year deal this time, but they are gambling the NL won’t have the DH this coming season. (The fact we still don’t know what rules MLB will be playing under this summer is ridiculous but that’s a different topic.) The Twins, like many teams, haven’t spent much this offseason, so giving Cruz a little bit more than they are comfortable with isn’t going to set them back. Even if Cruz’s play begins to decline, having his influence off the field remains a tremendous asset and helps make manager Rocco Baldelli’s job easier. If Cruz is gone, the dominant voice in the clubhouse becomes veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is about as intense as they come. We have a feeling Cruz helps to balance out Donaldson. The Twins’ brain trust of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would be making a big mistake if they dismiss the chemistry angle of this equation.
- Item: Shortly after Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Friday that the Twins were believed to be in the mix for free-agent starter Trevor Bauer, Rosenthal updated his story to say sources now tell him the Twins are not in the mix. The story focused on the Mets considering signing Bauer and added that the Dodgers and Blue Jays also are possibilities.
- Reaction: It was fun while it lasted, although it never seemed realistic the Twins were in the mix for Bauer. The Twins’ big free agent signing right now is veteran starter J.A. Happ, who received a one-year, $8 million deal this week. Bauer, who knows Falvey from their time together in Cleveland, is the top pitcher on the open market and is coming off a season in which he had a 1.73 ERA in 73 innings en route to winning the NL Cy Young award with the Reds. Adding Bauer would have changed the feeling among many Twins fans when it comes to whether the team can compete with the White Sox for the AL Central title.
- Item: The Wild showed video tributes on the scoreboard for former goalie Devan Dubnyk and winger Ryan Donato during their home opener on Friday against San Jose at Xcel Energy Center.
- Reaction: Listeners to the Mackey & Judd show know that I’m not particularly fond of tribute videos, even though NHL teams seem to love doing them. Dubnyk, however, definitely deserved a welcome back, even though there was only a small number of people allowed into the building because of the pandemic. Dubnyk, who started in goal for the Sharks after being traded by the Wild during the offseason, played in 328 regular-season games in five-plus seasons in Minnesota. The Wild did a nice job with the video to Dubnyk that was shown during a stoppage in play during the first period. Donato is another story. He played in 84 games in one-plus season with the Wild and had 18 goals and 39 points before being traded to the Sharks in an offseason deal that was separate from the Dubnyk move. I’m not sure if Donato’s former teammates got an opportunity to say much to him, especially with all of the COVID-19 protocols in place, but that would have sufficed for a welcome back. The video for Donato in the second period was brief, but even brief was too long. You want to cheapen tribute videos? Do them for players who have what amounts to a cup of coffee with your franchise.