The Rays swung a big deal late Thursday afternoon — perhaps the biggest in-season addition in club history — when they acquired All-Star DH Nelson Cruz from the Twins. Right-handed pitching prospect Calvin Faucher also heads to the Rays as part of the deal, while Minnesota receives right-handed pitching prospects Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.
#MNTwins complete trade with Tampa Bay Rays.— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) July 22, 2021
Club acquires right-handed minor league pitchers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, in exchange for designated hitter Nelson Cruz and right-handed minor league pitcher Calvin Faucher.
The 41-year-old Cruz is perhaps the most consistent slugger in the game, as he’s posted an above-average OPS+ in every season since 2008. He’s remained offensively dominant into his 40s and has posted a .294/.370/.537 slash line with 19 homers in 346 plate appearances with the Twins this season.
Cruz is a massive addition for a Rays team that had received above-average offensive performances from nearly all its starters but didn’t really have a transformative slugger in the middle of the lineup. They’ve filled that need with the acquisition of Cruz.
His only downside is that he doesn’t provide any value in the field — he hasn’t played an inning in the outfield during his three seasons with the Twins and hasn’t played more than five games in the field since 2016. The Rays clearly are willing to put up with that lack of flexibility in exchange for having one of the best hitters in baseball, but it’ll be an adjustment for manager Kevin Cash, who likes to move his players around and use the DH spot as a way to give his regular starters a half day off.
Ryan slots in as the sixth-best prospect in the Twins system as ranked by MLB Pipeline, while Strotman ranks 13th. The 25-year-old Ryan, a seventh-round pick in 2018, has been dominant this year at Triple-A Durham, posting a 3.63 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP, a .175 opponent batting average, 75 strikeouts, and just 10 walks in 57 innings. Strotman, 24, has also pitched at Durham this year, and though the the 2017 fourth-rounder’s peripheral numbers aren’t nearly as good as Ryan’s, he’s still pitched well. Over 13 appearances (12 starts), Strotman has a 3.39 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP, 62 strikeouts, 33 walks, and a .235 opponent batting average in 58.1 innings. It seems likely that both pitchers will get major league opportunities with Minnesota before the end of the season, especially if the Twins deal ace José Berríos.
Faucher, a 2017 10th-round pick, has struggled this season at Double-A Wichita, posting a 7.04 ERA, a 2.05 WHIP, 42 strikeouts, and 24 walks in 30.2 innings of relief. But the Rays have a reputation for fixing other teams’ discarded pitchers, so it should be interesting if they can get the 25-year-old righty back on the right track.