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Braves Potential Free Agent Target: Nelson Cruz

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The Braves would need the Universal DH to be implemented and other moves would need to be made but Cruz would be a potentially fun addition.

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game One Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves are riding high after the World Series title, but now are looking to run it back in 2022. When baseball returns, the team will have to make a ton of critical decisions to put their final roster together. The biggest question is obviously at first base and whether Freddie Freeman returns or they have figure out how to replace him? In addition, there are questions in the outfield where postseason heroes Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler are all free agents while Marcell Ozuna is returning after his legal troubles. There are a ton of questions when it comes to the outfield for 2022 and beyond.

If the Universal DH comes to the National League it will no doubt aid the market of ageless wonder Nelson Cruz. As Atlanta’s roster stands currently, adding Cruz would be like a square peg round hole situation for the Braves because Ozuna fits the DH mold perfectly. However, if Atlanta were able to unload Ozuna and the $53 million owed to him over the next three seasons, then a better case could be made for adding someone like Cruz to the roster.

Cruz will turn 42 in July and is coming off another good season in which he appeared in 140 games while hitting .265/.334/.497 with 32 home runs and a 122 wRC+. He was worth 2.0 fWAR although his production did fall off significantly after he was dealt to the Rays at the trade deadline.

The positives with Cruz are that he would likely be available on a short, one-year deal which is something that we know Alex Anthopoulos prefers. Beyond the on-field production, he has a stealer reputation in the clubhouse which is something the Braves pride themselves on having.

The biggest downside when it comes to Crus is his age and the way the 2021 season ended. Cruz hit just .226/.283/.442 over the final 55 games with the Rays. A BABIP of .252 over those 55 games in Tampa explains some of it but at 41-years of age, you have to wonder how much longer he can continue to produce at a high level. He also hasn’t played defense in a couple of seasons so a potential move would be contingent on the DH coming to the NL, but Cruz does check many of the boxes for the Braves.

Still, like many of the other profiles in this series, the likelihood of it happening is miniscule. There is simply too many other things that would have to happen to clear the way for a possible addition of Cruz.