Twins sign Nelson Cruz as power bat and mentor for Miguel Sano

The Minnesota Twins have signed Nelson Cruz, with the idea he’ll provide value on and off the field.

The Minnesota Twins made their first significant move of the offseason on Thursday, agreeing to terms with veteran slugger Nelson Cruz. As first reported by Enrique Rojas of ESPN, it’s a one-year deal worth $14.3 million guaranteed with a $12 million option for 2020.

The Twins have been tied to Cruz on some level for weeks, with multiple other teams rumored to have interest in signing him. General manager Thad Levine was with the Texas Rangers from 2005-16, overlapping with Cruz’s time there (2006-13), so there’s some unique familiarity there.

A team that was toward the bottom of the American League in home runs last year, with 166 can certainly use a power bat in the middle of the lineup.

Cruz is 38 years old and primarily a DH at this point in his career. His slash-line rates dropped off last year (.256/.342/.509-.850 OPS), but he hit 37 home runs and drove in 97 for the Seattle Mariners and has hit at least 37 home runs in five straight seasons.

Apart from his expected contribution at the plate, the Twins surely envision Cruz as a veteran mentor to fellow Dominican Miguel Sano.

Since a promising run upon first being called up in 2015 (18 home runs with a .916 OPS over 80 games) an ill-conceived position switch came, followed by ongoing weight issues, residual injuries and bad plate discipline to mark Sano’s career.

But he’s still just 25 years old (26 on May 11, 2019), and having a positive influence in the clubhouse can only help as Sano reaches a crossroad in his career.

A decline could come more quickly for Cruz as he enters his age-39 season, but the Twins have taken very little risk on a one-year deal.

And if he can get through to Sano on a very basic level, that a manager, coach or executive can’t, Cruz’s impact will be felt beyond the 2019 edition of the team.