Baseball is back, ladies and gentlemen. And I can’t believe that’s old news now.
The free agent market has heated up as of late, and while the Nats haven’t made a tremendous amount of signings, they’ve had some good moves, most notably signing reliever Steve Cishek, who had a good 2021, and Aaron Sanchez, who has potential that’s been wasted by injuries and is worth a flier.
But the big move the team has made was in the singing of their new DH (sorry Amanda!), the ageless wonder Nelson Cruz. Cruz signed on for a one-year, $12M contract with a mutual option for 2023. The 41-year old has an incredible resume, being a seven-time All-Star, All-MLB the last two seasons, four Silver Sluggers, and 2 Edgar Martínez Awards for being the best DH in the game. Despite his age, his newer accolades show that Cruz is still a valuable home run hitter, and will provide some great protection for Juan Soto in the lineup.
So, what does Nelson Cruz bring to DC, and what can we expect from him?
Firstly, expect a lot of home runs. But not much winning to go along with it.
While Cruz will be an exceptional addition to the Nats’ lineup, it’s easy to see that he alone is not going to fix some of the still glaring holes in the roster. The bottom of the potential lineup this year relies on the likes of Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom, two players who still have yet to prove the potential that they seemed to carry when the organization brought them onto the Major League squad. Sure, we’ll have Soto and Josh Bell too, but the lineup is still lacking in firepower. Also, there’s a pitching issue, but we’d be here all day if I got into that.
While the 2022 Nationals will not be great, we can still look forward to a lot of long balls. So, just have fun, sit back, enjoy the young guys, and watch Nelson Cruz crush home runs at 41 years of age. Sounds good to me!
Second, expect to hear more stories like what we heard out of camp between Cruz and Erick Fedde this week. Nelson is famous for being a class act, and many players, including superstar Manny Machado, have talked about the impact that a guy like Cruz has on others in the game of baseball. Cruz helped Fedde discover he was tipping a pitch and also helped him fix it, showing already one of the reasons the Nats wanted him on their team. It’s about more than just his ability to destroy baseballs; Nelson Cruz is an incredible person to have in your clubhouse. When there’s someone like Juan Soto around, who looks up to him, that’s great. When you have young guys who are struggling, a veteran hitter who’s willing to help will be fantastic.
Things like these are what makes a veteran like Cruz a great addition to any squad, whether they’re a World Series contender or rebuilding, like the Nats happen to be. Patience, kindness, the ability to smash home runs, and many other things can be learned. Nelson is a great character for the clubhouse, and I’m excited to see what he can bring to a squad that won’t have much to cheer for this season. Also, maybe he can convince Soto DC is the best place for his future. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being optimistic.