Friday, December 28, 2018

Cruz control

Plenty of reports Thursday that Nelson Cruz has agreed to a one-year contract with club option with the Twins. While the Twins have yet to officially announce the free-agent signing, Cruz has changed his Twitter avatar to an image of himself at bat wearing a Twins jersey and helmet.

Taken as an individual move, I have no real quarrel with this. Cruz is 38 -- turns 39 in July -- so there is a risk, but he has shown little falloff as he ages. In his four seasons with the Mariners, "Boomstick" has hit between 44 and 37 homers each year. And that production, as you probably know, came in one of the more difficult hitting environments in the game.

Yeah, Cruz can hit. He's pretty much useless afield or on the bases, but he's going to be the DH and he is a legitimate force in the middle of a lineup. As long as they don't try to force him into the outfield ala Josh Willingham, he'll help.

But I continue to be uneasy with the organization's offseason trend away from on-base percentage. The Twins have added three right-handed thumpers in Cruz, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J. Cron. They all have power and they all swing and miss a lot. Cruz's on-base percentages with the M's were better than they had been with Baltimore or Texas, but on the whole, this lineup looks like the goal is to lead the league in solo homers. That is NOT a productive offense.

That said, the reality is that Cron, Schoop and even Cruz aren't the keys to the Twins 2019 lineup. The Twins will rise or recede on Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. If two of those three play at an All-Star level, the Twins are serious contenders. 

They have the talent to do that; they don't have the track record of doing that. But if two -- or better yet, all three -- turn into the players we've been dreaming on for five years or so, then a supporting cast of Cruz, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Schoop, Cron and Jason Castro makes for a dangerous and deep lineup even with their flaws.

If Schoop, Cron and Castro hit 7-8-9, things are good. If either Schoop and Cron wind up in the first five spots of the order, it's going to be another disappointing season.

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