The Padres announced a series of roster moves Tuesday, recalling left-hander José Castillo, right-hander Matt Waldron and infielder Matthew Batten. In corresponding moves, right-hander Domingo Tapia was optioned to Triple-A El Paso, righty Michael Wacha was placed on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to July 2) with right shoulder inflammation and designated hitter Nelson Cruz was designated for assignment.
Cruz, 43, has long been one of the most feared sluggers in the league but has struggled over the past couple of years. In 2021, he was hitting .294/.370/.537 for the Twins with a 142 wRC+ when they flipped him to the Rays. That deal worked out very well for the Twins but Cruz slumped after switching jerseys, hitting just .226/.283/.442, 95 wRC+. He then signed with the Nats for 2022 but hit just .234/.313/.337 for a wRC+ of 85.
As last season was winding down, he underwent surgery to address some inflammation in his eye, which he said was impacting his ability to pick up spin on the ball. The Padres took a gamble on a bounceback from Cruz, giving him a $1M guarantee on a one-year deal. Unfortunately, that hasn’t come to pass, with Cruz hitting just .245/.283/.399 thus far for a wRC+ of 85. He’s striking out at a 30.3% rate and walking just 3.9% of the time, both of those marks are easily the worst of his career.
He’s essentially just a designated hitter at this point in his career, having not played the outfield since 2018 and logging just one inning at first base this year. That makes it especially important that he produces at the plate, something he hasn’t been able to do for a couple of years now.
The Padres will now have one week to trade Cruz or pass him through waivers. It’s possible that some club is intrigued based on his past production and modest salary, though that remains to be seen. As a veteran with more than five years of service time, he would have the right to reject an outright assignment in the event he clears waivers while retaining his salary. That means he’s likely to end up released if the Friars can’t find a trade partner in the coming days.
As for Wacha, his shoulder has been an ongoing minor issue. His start on June 24 was skipped due to fatigue in that shoulder, though he did later take the ball on July 1 and toss five innings. Manager Bob Melvin tells AJ Cassavell of MLB.com that the club is trying to use next week’s All-Star break to give him a chance to fully heal up. He has a 2.84 ERA through 15 starts this year, so the team will surely be hoping that a little breather is all he needs to get back on track.