Josh Willingham Market Heating Up, Hinges On Michael Cuddyer

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 15: Josh Willingham #16 of the Oakland Athletics watches the flight of his ball as he hits a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the third inning during an MLB baseball game at the O.co Coliseum July 15, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

It seems as though the Twins might be finally starting to move forward with their off-season plans. For the last couple of weeks we've known that much of their larger plans depended on what happened with Michael Cuddyer; the Twins are working with a limited budget and have many holes to fill, meaning if they make one significant move (and signing Cuddyer would be significant) then it would have repurcussions for the rest of their winter.

Earlier today, Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland stated that Josh Willingham's landing spots were down to Minnesota and Cleveland. Naturally this has been somewhat disputed, as over the last couple of days the Mariners have been finalists and then totally out of the running for Willingham's services, and the Rockies continue to be involved where the market for Cuddyer is concerned. Indeed, that seems to be the common theme. It's not just the Twins that are waiting on Cuddyer, but it's also Colorado and, indirectly, the Indians.

With Minnesota being as patient as they can be for Cuddyer, the Rockies seem to be of the same mindset. The Indians, meanwhile, haven't been connected to the longtime Twin but may end up being in direct competition with whichever team(s) don't land him in order to bring in Willingham. If the Indians can find the money.

At some point, whether the Twins get a definitive answer from Cuddyer or not, they'll need to move on. The longer they wait to begin their off-season rebuild, the more other teams will begin to solidify their own plans for 2012, the fewer options the Twins will have to get better. Because the truth is that even if the Twins land one of those two right-handed bats, it only makes them a .500 team. There are a great many things this team needs to do before Opening Day if they plan on putting a winning product on the field.

Considering the similar market for these two players, I have to believe that if Willingham's asking price was an order of magnitude less than Cuddyer's then he'd already have signed with one of these teams. Keeping that in mind, if the Twins are paying millions for this player profile then it's an added bonus that they can help bolster their future at the same time. If Cuddyer wants to hold out for four years or three years and extra money, let him. He's a good player and somebody will sign him.

Because if I'm Minnesota, I'm done waiting. I have a lot of work to get done, I can sign another player for similar money who can hit right-handed pitching, and I can pick up a couple of draft picks in the process. And it all means I can get back to work tomorrow in terms of putting my team together.

It's never easy to say goodbye. If that's what happens between the Twins and Cuddyer, part of me will be sad. But there's more at stake here than nostalgia and familiarity and continuity. We're talking about the success of the team in 2012 and beyond.

Extenuating circumstances or not the Twins are working on some kind of a deadline. If you're Minnesota, how long do you wait on Cuddyer?

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