BREAKING: The Tampa Bay Rays are finalizing a deal to acquire slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins, sources tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 22, 2021
Over 85 games with the Minnesota Twins this season, Cruz batted .294 with a .907 OPS and 19 home runs.
He has been a reliable hitter at every turn of his MLB career, and he has even received MVP votes six times in the past seven seasons (excluding the current campaign).
The slugger seems to get better with age, and the 41-year-old is now hoping to help the Rays get one step closer to the elusive World Series title.
Is Tampa Bay in the driver’s seat now to win it all?
It looks that way.
The Reigning AL Champs Just Got Even Better
The 2020 MLB season feels like a blur, but let’s not forget that the Rays are the reigning American League champs.
Tampa Bay returned much of its core from the 2020 campaign, meaning one thing: Until someone knocks you off of your throne, you’re the team to beat.
Now, the Rays have taken their AL-winning 2020 core and added an elite hitter in Cruz.
They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Cruz Has An Elite Postseason Track Record
Trading for a solid regular season player is one thing, but adding a guy who mashes in the playoffs is another.
The Rays just did both.
Cruz is one of the best postseason performers of this generation.
Over 46 career playoff games, he is a career .288 hitter with a 1.019 OPS, 17 home runs, 12 doubles, and 37 runs batted in.
He has an ALCS MVP award to his name (from back in 2011) when he batted .364 with a 1.713 OPS and six home runs in a series.
The guy is a menace when it matters the most, and the Rays are going to reap the benefits.
For a Tampa Bay team with some rotation woes, it’s going to be key that the club makes up for it offensively.
Having A Veteran In The Clubhouse Is Crucial During A Playoff Run
There are very few players in baseball who have been around the block like Cruz has.
At 41, Cruz has played 17 seasons at the MLB level and has been on six different teams.
He has experienced his fair share of ups and downs, and he knows what it’s like to lead a locker room.
That’s invaluable for a Rays team that is very young on the whole.
Tampa Bay has the 12th-youngest team in baseball based on the average age of the players on the active roster.
Funny enough, the Rays started the day with an average age of 28.4 years, but they traded away 41-year-old Rich Hill a few hours ago, so that average age will come down as soon as the statistic is updated.
Things just got a lot tougher for the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Boston currently has a one-game advantage over Tampa Bay, but it might not last.
The Rays are definitely the favorites to win the division with the addition of Cruz.
Acquire Nelson Cruz ✅
Win in extra innings ✅
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 23, 2021
Claiming the AL East title would be a huge advantage for Tampa Bay, because after all, every team wants to avoid the single-elimination Wild Card Game.
The Rays are giving themselves a great chance at doing so, and they might cruise all the way to a World Series title in 2021.