Nelson Cruz provided the Twins with exceptional value in his 258 games with the team, serving as the catalyst for back-to-back AL Central championship teams and being everything the Twins could have asked for on and off the field.
And when it was time to trade Cruz, with Year 3 of his tenure with the Twins dissolving in a sea of losses, he continued to provide that same exceptional value.
Minnesota found a motivated buyer in Tampa Bay, a team that quite frankly gave up far more for Cruz than I might have imagined. The Rays trail the Red Sox by just one game in the AL East and have an 81.5% chance to make the postseason, per FanGraphs.
Their offense has been solid, ranking seventh in the majors with 474 runs scored. But their designated hitters have just a .702 OPS, No. 13 out of 15 American League teams. Enter Cruz, whose .907 OPS should bring another jolt to that lineup.
With a player like Cruz, who is surely productive but has a more limited market as a DH than, say, a relief pitcher, you don't wait for all the offers to come in. If you find one you like, you take it.
And there's a lot to like about the two pitchers the Twins got from the Rays, as I talked about on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
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Righthanders Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman will both be 25 by the end of this season, and both have had nice seasons at Class AAA in what has been, outside of 13 innings at Class AA for Ryan in 2019, their first work above Class A.
Ryan in particular catches the eye with 75 strikeouts in just 57 innings (all but one appearance as a starter) to go with just 35 hits and 10 walks allowed. He's currently in Tokyo with Team USA.
Strotman had Tommy John surgery in June of 2018, cutting short that season after just nine starts at Class A. He made nine more starts at the tail end of 2019 between rookie ball and Class A. Then the pandemic wiped out 2020. Now he's at Class AAA, where he has posted a 7-2 record, 3.39 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 58.1 innings.
As a pair, Ryan and Strotman were ranked as the Nos. 10 and 17 prospects in the Rays' organization by MLB before the trade; Ryan is now the No. 6 prospect in the Twins' system and Strotman is No. 13 — a testament to the depth and strength, at least relatively speaking, of the Rays' system, one that is known for producing pitching.
They are also a little on the old side, though — no other prospects in the Twins' top 25 aside from Brent Rooker are older than Ryan and Strotman. But considering both were college pitchers who had a year wiped out by the pandemic, and Strotman lost a year to injury, they are still viable prospects.
Getting a pitcher at the trade deadline who is close to helping at the Major League level is not easy; the prevailing thought going into this year's deadline was that the Twins might have to settle for younger, less-developed prospects at Class A.
Instead, in what might be the first of several moves, the Twins didn't just get one pitcher on the cusp of the big leagues. They got two. It doesn't guarantee either will pan out, but at least the Twins will know sooner rather than later what they have.
It wouldn't be surprising to see one or both at Target Field before the year is over as the Twins try to sort out who might help them wipe away the taste of 2021 in 2022 and beyond.