Nelson Cruz Traded To Rays: Fantasy Baseball Outlook
With MLB’s July 30 trade deadline just around the corner, contending teams are looking to add reinforcements and plug holes for the stretch run. The Tampa Bay Rays made one of the first major moves of the summer on Thursday, sending a pair of pitching prospects to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for DH Nelson Cruz and RHP Calvin Faucher.
Cruz represents a massive upgrade at DH for the Rays, whose designated hitters have batted just .227/.315/.412 this year. By comparison, Cruz has a robust .294/.370/.537 batting line and ranks seventh in the AL with a .907 OPS. With Tampa Bay trailing the Boston Red Sox by just one game in the AL East standings, Cruz could prove to be a major factor in helping the Rays win the division.
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How does Nelson Cruz’s fantasy baseball value change with Rays?
Cruz’s fantasy value shouldn’t be affected too much by this trade. His playing time will remain steady, as he’ll continue to serve as an everyday DH in the middle of the order. Offensively, Tampa Bay is averaging 0.3 more runs per game than Minnesota, which could give him a slight bump in terms of runs and RBIs.
The biggest change for Cruz will be adjusting to his new home park. Whereas Target Field in Minnesota plays mostly neutral with a slight lean towards hitters, Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay has consistently been one of MLB’s most pitching-friendly venues. With 33 of the Rays’ remaining 65 games coming at home, that could suppress Cruz’s numbers somewhat, especially since he’s been slumping lately with a .631 OPS over his last 15 games.
However, Cruz has hit well at Tropicana Field throughout his career, batting .272/.345/.536 with 9 home runs and 24 RBIs in 33 games there. Accordingly, the 41-year-old shouldn’t have too much trouble getting comfortable in his new digs.
All things considered, Cruz may experience a slight dip in production due to his new home park, but he’s hit everywhere he’s played during his 17-year career and has been one of baseball’s most reliable hitters over the past decade, so his numbers should remain strong.
Which Twins will play more after the Nelson Cruz trade?
Cruz’s departure opens up a lineup spot for Minnesota, but it’s unclear who, if anyone, will fill that slot on a regular basis. Like other teams without a full-time DH, the Twins will likely rotate multiple players there to give them a day off in the field, as they did with Josh Donaldson on Thursday. Donaldson may DH a decent amount down the stretch given his age (35), while Miguel Sanó may see some time there as well based on his past experience at the position (24.3% of his career games).
As for which players might see an expanded role, Willians Astudillo is a leading candidate after getting called up from Triple-A on Thursday. He has the ability to play multiple positions and was immediately inserted into the lineup at third base with Donaldson sliding over to DH. The 29-year-old utilityman has struggled offensively this year, however, and has batted .263/.289/.390 with 9 home runs and 37 RBIs in 107 games over the past three seasons combined.
If Astudillo does receive the bulk of Cruz’s at-bats, he isn’t worth adding in most fantasy leagues. Fantasy GMs should continue to monitor the Twins, however, in case they call up anyone else in the near future.