The Minnesota Twins traded Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for two minor league pitchers on Monday night, making the first of what could be several moves ahead of the July 30th trade deadline.
Cruz was one of the bright spots in a disappointing season for the Twins, hitting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBI. After initially coming to the Twins prior to the 2019 season, Cruz was a key figure in the middle of their lineup, hitting 76 home runs and sitting first in franchise history with a .984 OPS.
Despite turning 41 on July 1, Cruz should fit into a Rays lineup that ranks seventh in runs per game (4.89), but has struggled to get production out of the designated hitter spot.
The Twins will not retain any of Cruz's $5 million salary remaining for this season and receive right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.
Ryan is a 25-year-old who is ranked as the Rays' 10th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Ryan had a tremendous 2019 season, going 9-4 with a 1.96 ERA and led the minor leagues in strikeouts with 183 in 123.2 innings.
Ryan is 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA in Triple-A this season and owns a fastball that clocks in between 92-96 mph. With the addition of a plus-slider, curveball and changeup, MLB Pipeline predicts he could become a mid-rotation starter and could join the Twins later this season.
Strotman was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLB Entry Draft and is the No. 17 prospect in the Rays organization. Strotman has a deep arsenal of pitches that are highlighted by his plus-fastball.
Strotman has been dominant in the Rays system after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018 and is 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA at Triple-A Durham this season. The 24-year-old will need to work on his control but MLB Pipeline projects Strotman could reach the majors by next season.
According to Dan Hayes of The Athletic, the Twins were happy with their return in the deal.
The Athletic's Aaron Gleeman also reports that Cruz hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Twins next offseason.
The question for the Twins is what happens next as they approach the deadline. The Twins have been mentioned frequently in trade rumors the past week and with José Berríos, Byron Buxton and Taylor Rogers hitting free agency after next season, it's possible that this trade could open the floodgates for a busy deadline.