The Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic roster is a veritable All-Star team, with one of the deepest bullpens in the tournament and MVP-caliber talent all over the diamond.
And while some of the baseball’s biggest names — Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Julio Rodríguez, among others — will play major roles on the squad, Machado and Soto’s Padres teammate Nelson Cruz holds a distinguished, and distinctive, title: player-general manager.
The team Cruz has put together is nothing short of loaded. In addition to a stacked lineup, the relief corps boasts Camilo Doval, Héctor Neris, Rafael Montero, Gregory Soto and Bryan Abreu.
That’s why the Dominican Republic is the favorite to win the World Baseball Classic, according to FanDuel, at +200.
Cruz was first offered the GM job in 2020, but he declined, saying he “wasn’t ready,” per MLB.com. After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2021 tournament, Cruz was offered the job again in January 2022. Cruz accepted this time.
MORE: World Baseball Classic schedule 2023: Dates, times, channels for every game
Why is Nelson Cruz the Dominican Republic’s GM?
Cruz is aware of the uniqueness of his position.
“I understand that there will be a lot of talk about the fact an active player serves as general manager for the first time in the history of the World Baseball Classic,” Cruz said last year, per Sports Illustrated. “I’d like to inform you that I’m ready for that. I’m a man who likes challenges. I’m honored to accept the appointment, considering what the World Baseball Classic means to Dominican people.”
Nelson Cruz — General Manager and Home Run Hitter, Team Dominican Republic. 😮💥 pic.twitter.com/t98az7X1KB
— MLB (@MLB) March 8, 2023
Given that Cruz declined the offer in 2020, it’s clear his readiness was an issue even to himself. But he seems confident that he’s prepared three years later. One of his first recruits was Soto when they were both with the Nationals.
WBC RANKINGS: IF | OF | Rotations | Top 75 players
“He was telling me right away, ‘I want you at the World Baseball Classic,'” Soto said, via MLB.com. “I told him, ‘I’m all in.’ I told him I was ready.” It appears those conversations were the catalyst for a lot of the players to join the Dominican Republic roster.
“The fact Nelson Cruz accepted our offer makes me proud and honored,” Juan Núñez Nepomuceno, president of the Dominican Republic Baseball Federation, said last July, per the World Baseball & Softball Federation. “He is a gentleman, a man of great discipline and a fan favorite. He is also well respected by MLB and its Players Association.”
Cruz brought on Rays third base coach Rodney Linares to be the team’s manager.
“I said, ‘Are you telling me or asking me?'” Linares said, per Bally Sports. “He said, ‘I’m asking you if you want to be.’ I said, ‘Hell, yeah, I want to be manager.'”
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Cruz has played for the Dominican Republic in every World Baseball Classic except for the inaugural 2006 tournament.
Dominican Republic WBC roster
Current MLB superstars such as Soto, Machado and Rafael Devers are joined on the roster by mainstays such as Cruz and Robinson Canó.
The result is a team that has the talent to win a second World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic and the first for the country since 2013.
|Bryan Abreu||Houston Astros||R|
|Sandy Alcántara||Miami Marlins||R|
|Genesis Cabrera||St. Louis Cardinals||L|
|Diego Castillo||Seattle Mariners||R|
|Roansy Contreras||Pittsburgh Pirates||R|
|Johnny Cueto||Miami Marlins||R|
|Camilo Doval||San Francisco Giants||R|
|Luis García||San Diego Padres||R|
|Yimi García||Toronto Blue Jays||R|
|Cristian Javier||Houston Astros||R|
|Rafael Montero||Houston Astros||R|
|Hector Neris||Philadelphia Phillies||R|
|Luis Ortiz||Free agent||R|
|Cesar Valdez||Los Angeles Angels||R|
|Francisco Mejía||Tampa Bay Rays||R/R|
|Gary Sanchez||Free agent||R/R|
|Willy Adames||Milwaukee Brewers||SS||R/R|
|Jeimer Candelario||Washington Nationals||3B/1B||S/R|
|Robinson Canó||Free agent||2B||L/R|
|Rafael Devers||Boston Red Sox||3B||L/R|
|Wander Franco||Tampa Bay Rays||SS||S/R|
|Manny Machado||San Diego Padres||3B||R/R|
|Ketel Marte||Arizona Diamondbacks||2B||S/R|
|Jeremy Peña||Houston Astros||SS||R/R|
|Jean Segura||Miami Marlins||2B||R/R|
|Teoscar Hernández||Seattle Mariners||RF||R/R|
|Eloy Jiménez||Chicago White Sox||LF||R/R|
|Julio Rodríguez||Seattle Mariners||CF||R/R|
|Juan Soto||San Diego Padres||RF||L/L|
|Nelson Cruz||San Diego Padres||DH||R/R|
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