On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins made the first big move to kick off the trade deadline season when the Rays acquired designated hitter Nelson Cruz and pitching prospect Calvin Faucher and traded pitching prospects Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman to the Twins. Cruz, now 41 years old, signed a one year contract with the Twins in free agency prior to the 2021 season for $13 million after a successful stint with the team from 2019-2020. Although the Twins made the Postseason in both of Cruz’s prior seasons with the team and that the Twins were expecting to contend for a Postseason bid this season, the team is currently 42-56 (16.5 games back of the AL Central lead and 14.0 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot) which is likely why they decided to trade Cruz and potentially more assets in the coming days. As for the Rays, they are currently 59-39 (1.0 games back of the AL East lead and 3.0 games ahead of the second AL Wild Card spot) and are again looking to compete in the World Series this season after winning the American League Pennant last season.
With the Twins from 2019-2021, Cruz was one of the top offensive players in all of Major League Baseball. In this time frame, Cruz slashed .304/.386/.600 and had a 157 wRC+ which ranked second (among qualified hitters) behind only Mike Trout who had a 176 wRC+. Although Cruz’s offensive production has slightly regressed this season, he has still been an elite hitter slashing .294/.370/.537 (142 wRC+). Cruz is a massive upgrade to the Rays’ lineup because on the year (including Cruz’s first game with the team), the Rays as a team rank 24th in AVG (.232), 15th in OBP (.316), 14th in SLG (.400), and 10th in wRC+ (102). With the Rays, Cruz will likely be the team’s everyday designated hitter and hit somewhere 2-5 in the batting order.
In the trade, the Rays also acquired Calvin Faucher. Faucher is a 25 year old, right handed reliever, who is now with the Rays’ AA affiliate. Throughout his Minor League career from 2017-2021, Faucher has a 4.64 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, 25 K%, and 11.8 BB% in 159 innings pitched. Faucher is not ranked on Fangraphs’ top Rays prospects list.
Following their trade to the Twins, Joe Ryan ranks as the eighth best prospect within the organization and Drew Strotman ranks as the fifth best prospect within the organization via Fangraphs. Ryan and Strotman both have a 45 Future Value (FV) which is a player that Fangraphs projects to be a #4/5 starter with an about 4.20 FIP. Ryan, 25 years old, is currently on the USA Baseball team for the Olympics but had been pitching in AAA this season prior to the Olympics. In his Minor League career from 2018-2021, Ryan has a 2.70 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 2.56 xFIP, 36.6 K%, and 6 BB% in 217 innings pitched. Strotman, 24 years old, has also been pitching in AAA this season. In his Minor League career from 2017-2021, Strotman has a 3.12 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 3.67 xFIP, 23.2 K%, and 9.5 BB% in 179 innings pitched.
I would give the Rays a B+ and the Twins an A+ for this trade. As I mentioned earlier, Cruz has been one of the best hitters in all of Major League Baseball both this season and over the last few seasons which is a player the Rays desperately need in their lineup in order to compete for the World Series. Although this was a necessary move, it was a slight overpay for the Rays which greatly bennefits the Twins. With the team out of contention already, there was no need to hold onto Cruz due to his impending free agency. Although rental designated hitters don’t typically net teams a haul at the trade deadline, the Twins did extremely well netting two prospects that now rank among their top 10. Ryan and Strotman will both likely be pitching for the Twins within the next year (barring any injuries) and both have decent potential to be solid Major League pitchers. Additionally, if the Twins and Cruz still have mutual interest in a reunion, the Twins could sign Cruz in free agency and hope to contend next season after a pretty much lost 2021.