The Washington Nationals signed Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $15 million deal Sunday, making him the first full-time designated hitter in Nats history.
The contract agreement came as a mild surprise after the 41-year-old had been rumored to be headed West for either the San Diego Padres or Los Angeles Dodgers.
Washington notably traded Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to LA ahead of last year’s trade deadline, suggesting that they were headed straight for a rebuild; however, the Cruz deal signals that they intended to compete, but just how successful will they be?
Nelly Lands in D.C.
Modern science and training have become so advanced that more and more players in every sport are successfully fighting off father time, but Cruz’s finish to the 2021 campaign could be an indication that he is starting to lose traction in the race. Still, if he can provide similar numbers to the ones from last year, he will provide Washington with a clear top-half DH.
Signing Cruz also gives a signal to Soto— the team’s 23-year-old star and National League MVP runner-up— that they are not going to make him wait around and waste his prime years. This was a major concern after the Turner-Scherzer deal with the Dodgers and was validated when the young catalyst declined the team’s 13-year, $350 million deal before the lockout.
If the season goes the other way but Cruz is still posting decent numbers at the plate, he will then become a valuable asset in a future trade deal and could land the Nats a nice piece for the future, just like he netted Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman when the Minnesota Twins sent him to Tampa last year.
Nelson Cruz’s Impact on Washington
The Nationals were a difficult team to predict last season, even after they traded away their two stars to LA; they rarely got blown out and seemed to snag wins they shouldn’t have, although they were still a losing franchise that had a disparity in talent compared to most of its opponents.
The team figures to bring in much more talent around Nelson Cruz (and Soto) to contend with the reigning World Series champions Atlanta Braves, newly improved New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies with last year’s MVP, Bryce Harper. It is only if they do not bring in more assistance that this deal becomes questionable.
A few of the top free agents remaining in the pool include Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, and Freddie Freeman, and although it is hard to imagine any of them landing in the nation’s capital, it is at least a little more likely after the Cruz deal. Washington wants to contend for the NL East this season but will need more firepower to actually trouble its opponents.
The only question left is this: who’s next to join the surprise challenge in D.C.?
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