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Nelson Cruz, Padres agree to deal

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Veteran slugger Nelson Cruz has agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with the Padres, a source told MLB.com’s Shaun O’Neill on Wednesday, adding a little more thump to a lineup that has brought Xander Bogaerts and Matt Carpenter aboard this winter. The club has not confirmed the move. 

For years, Cruz held Father Time at bay more effectively than almost any player in baseball history. A late bloomer who didn’t establish himself in the Majors until his late 20s, Cruz made up for lost time by bashing 292 home runs from ages 33-40 — more than anyone other than Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Babe Ruth. He also earned five of his seven career All-Star selections in that time, as well as all four of his Silver Slugger Awards.

But things didn’t go so smoothly in 2022, when Cruz turned 42 at midseason, making him MLB’s second-oldest hitter behind Albert Pujols. Cruz signed a one-year deal to provide the Nationals with middle-of-the-order thump and veteran leadership out of the DH spot, but things never really clicked offensively. In 124 games, Cruz hit just 10 home runs and batted .234/.313/.337, leaving him with a below-average OPS+ (90) for the first time since 2007.

It was a particularly tough second half for Cruz, who batted a mere .208/.290/.274 with three homers over his final 64 games as Washington sputtered to a last-place finish in the NL East.

Yet Cruz’s track record prior to 2022 still makes him an intriguing bat, even as he is limited strictly to DH duties. (He hasn’t played the outfield at all since 2018). From 2019-21, he posted a .936 OPS, while his 89 homers tied for third in the Majors.

Originally signed by the Mets out of the Dominican Republic way back in 1998, Cruz will be entering his 19th MLB season in 2023. His 459 career homers rank 39th on the all-time list, and he’ll enter 2023 second among active hitters, behind only Miguel Cabrera (507).

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