Nelson Cruz, Padres Reportedly Agree to 1-Year Contract in MLB Free Agency

Adam WellsJanuary 11, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: Washington Nationals designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) before a MLB game between the Washington Nationals and the Colorado Rockies on May 29, 2022, at Nationals Park, in Washington, D.C.
(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nelson Cruz will be back for a 19th season in Major League Baseball after signing with the San Diego Padres.

Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, Cruz has agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with the Padres.

Cruz became a free agent in November after the Washington Nationals declined a $16 million mutual option.

The Nationals signed the seven-time All-Star to a one-year deal in March with a mutual option for 2023. He was expected to provide more power at the heart of Washington's lineup as the organization looked to get back on track after two disappointing seasons since winning the 2019 World Series.

Things didn't work out for Cruz or Washington, though. He only hit .234/.313/.337 with 10 homers and 64 RBI in 124 games. The Nationals had the worst record in MLB (55-107), and they dealt Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline.

Per MLB.com's Will Leitch, Cruz was the third-oldest player on an Opening Day roster when the 2022 season began. He turned 42 on July 1.

Age has started to catch up to the Dominican recently. He had a strong start to the 2021 season with the Twins (.907 OPS, 19 homers in 85 games), but he had a steep drop-off after being dealt to the Rays (.725 OPS, 13 homers in 55 games).

It's not a surprise the Nationals wanted to move on from Cruz. He was largely unproductive in an everyday role last season and would have carried a large price tag in 2023.

The Padres will be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, as he's not that far removed from being an above-average hitter. It seems unlikely he can play at that level during a full season given his age, but he could thrive in a part-time role in 2023.

San Diego already has a deep lineup, but the addition of Cruz will allow manager Bob Melvin to play matchups. He hit a respectable .248/.345/.383 with five homers in 149 at-bats last season against left-handed pitching.