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Nationals land Nelson Cruz; Ronald Acuna looking at a May return

Nationals land Nelson Cruz; Ronald Acuna looking at a May return

Monday, March 14, 2022

-Clint Manry

According to a few sources, including SB Nation’s Battery Power on Sunday, the Braves were one of several teams in the running for designated-hitter Nelson Cruz. However, the 41-year-old slugger won’t be belting homers in Atlanta this coming season as it was reported late last night that he signed a one-year deal with the Nationals, worth $15 million overall.

Cruz, who has been in the majors since 2005 (now onto his seventh organization), would’ve certainly been a boon of a signing for the Braves. Heading into his age-42 campaign in 2022, the righty hitter has amassed 449 career home runs to go with a .277 AVG – nearly Hall of Fame-like numbers for a guy that didn’t really get going in the league until he was roughly 30. The numbers are pretty crazy: since 2009 (Cruz’s first season as an above-replacement-level player in the big leagues), the man has launched 434 homers, which leads all of baseball in that span (and by a lot – like 37 more than the next highest total). Since that ’09 campaign (13 seasons), Cruz has topped 30 homers eight times, including a ridiculous 2015 in which he finished sixth in the AL MVP vote, thanks to a career-high 44 long balls and a .302 AVG in 152 games with the Mariners.

It’s not going to be fun having to face Cruz so many times this coming season, but with a $13-million salary in 2022, you have to think that Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has other plans for this year’s payroll, especially given the situation regarding an unsigned Freddie Freeman. Still, Atlanta being tied to Cruz was exciting while it lasted, even if it was a bit unrealistic.

Acuna to return in May?

Along with its reporting about Brian Snitker and Freeman, and how the two haven’t talked about “business” since the end of the lockout, an ESPN article from late last night quoted star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. as being ready to go for the 2022 season as soon as in a few months. If you recall, RAJ tore the ACL in his right knee last July, missing the rest of the 2021 campaign. However, per Acuna, the former top prospect is eyeing a return to game action in May. “I’m ready”, says Acuna. The Braves themselves haven’t mentioned a specific timeline for its star lead-off hitter, but it is good to see that he’s optimistic.

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