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Twins send DH Nelson Cruz to Rays, get two pitching prospects in return

Players Choice Awards Baseball
FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Twins’ Nelson Cruz, center, smiles in the dugout after the Twins clinched the AL Central championship with the Chicago White Sox’s loss during the tenth inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis. Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz was voted Marvin Miller Man of the Year and Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was picked as Player of the Year in annual Players Choice award voting by the Major League Baseball Players Association.(AP Photo/Craig Lassig, File)

The Twins began their pre-trade deadline fire sale on Thursday, dealing designated hitter Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays for two pitching prospects, righthander Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman. The Twins also sent a righthanded prospect, Calvin Faucher, to the Rays in a deal that was announced about an hour before the Twins played host to the Los Angeles Angels at Target Field.

This is expected to be only the first move for Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey. The Twins entered Thursday a disappointing 41-55 and 17 games behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox. Other Twins who could be moved before the 3 p.m. trade deadline on July 30 are shortstop Andrelton Simmons, lefthanded starter J.A. Happ, righthanded starter Michael Pineda and righthanded reliver Hansel Robles. Like Cruz, all will be free agents after the season.

Righthanded starter Jose Berrios, reliever Taylor Rogers and center fielder Byron Buxton, who will be free agents after 2022, also have been mentioned as candidates to be moved. They would get back far more than a soon-to-be free agent.

Here’s the information on each player involved in Thursday’s trade from the Twins release:

Ryan, 25, has made 12 appearances (11 starts) for Triple-A Durham so far this season, going 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA (57.0 IP, 23 ER), 10 walks, 75 strikeouts and a .175 opponent batting average. The 6’2”, 205-pound right-hander was selected by the Rays in the seventh round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of California State University, Stanislaus. Ryan was part of the Rays’ 60-man player pool and spent the 2020 MLB season at the club’s alternate training site in Port Charlotte, Florida. He is ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Rays’ system, per MLB.com.

Strotman, 24, has spent the 2021 season with Triple-A Durham, going 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA (58.1 IP, 22 ER), 33 walks, 62 strikeouts and a .235 opponent batting average in 13 games (12 starts) for the Bulls. The Sunnyvale, California native was selected by the Rays in the fourth round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Saint Mary’s College of California and has gone 12-8 with a 3.12 ERA (179.0 IP, 62 ER), 72 walks and 171 strikeouts in 42 career minor league games (37 starts). He is ranked as Tampa Bay’s 17th-best prospect according to MLB.com and earned New York-Penn League Midseason All-Star honors with Hudson Valley in 2017.

Cruz, 41, played in 85 games for the Twins this season, hitting .294 (87-for-296) with 13 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs, 50 RBI, 35 walks, a .370 on-base percentage, a .537 slugging percentage and a .907 OPS. The 2021 American League All-Star was signed by the Twins prior to the 2019 season and played in 258 games for Minnesota, hitting .304 (284-for-935) with 45 doubles, one triple, 76 home runs, 191 RBI, 158 runs scored, 116 walks, a .386 on-base percentage, a .598 slugging percentage and a .984 OPS.

Faucher, 25, has pitched in 19 games for Double-A Wichita this season, going 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA (30.2 IP, 24 ER), 24 walks and 42 strikeouts. The Chula Vista, California native was selected by the Twins in the 10th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of California, Irvine. He spent parts of four seasons in the Twins’ minor league system, going 11-7 with a 4.64 ERA (159.0 IP, 82 ER), 85 walks and 178 strikeouts.