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Nelson Cruz going to the Washington Nationals on a one-year, $15 million contract is a bit of a surprising twist after rumors throughout Sunday that his likely destination was the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Diego Padres, so the signing leads to two questions:

1. What do the Nationals, a team that currently doesn’t look like a viable contender in the National League East, want with a 41-year-old designated hitter — 42 on July 1 — who hit .221/.279/.438 in the second half in 2021?

2. Does the signing mean they have more moves to come to improve a team that went 65-97 last year — and now no longer has Max Scherzer?

The hot stove has been relit! We break down the biggest moves of the spring scramble — and what could come next.
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As for the first question, Cruz did finish the 2021 season with 32 home runs with the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays while batting .265/.334/.497, so his overall production remained very good. Still, that second-half decline is certainly worrisome, especially for a player his age, and perhaps the initial sign that Father Time is finally catching up to Cruz. If he does remain productive, however, Cruz gives the Nationals a good chance to have better-than-average numbers from the DH position: The majority of National League teams will probably end up rotating players through the DH slot, and recently we’ve seen a lot of American League teams struggle at the position due to a refusal to sign a full-time DH. Second, if Cruz is hitting and the Nationals are out of the playoff race, he is valuable trade bait. The Twins picked up a very good starting pitching prospect in Joe Ryan when they traded Cruz to the Rays, and the Nationals would look to do the same.


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