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FA Status of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel

So by now most baseball fans know just how important utilizing the MLB Free Agent compensation system to an organization's advantage is (just look at Tampa Bay and Toronto in the 2011 Rule IV draft as examples). We also know that Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are teetering on the edge of being ranked as Type A Free Agents by Elias' rating system based on their play in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and for the OF/1b/DH grouping, the Elias rankings are based on the following: PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI.

As Type B Free Agents each would only garner a supplemental draft pick for the Twins if Minnesota offers arbitration and they decline and sign elsewhere. As Type A Free Agents, assuming the Twins offer arbitration and each declines (I find both likely at this point), the Twins would gain an extra 1st rd pick (or 2nd rd pick from a bottom-15 team; top 15 picks in the first round are protected) from a team that signed either one as a Free Agent as well as a supplemental pick for each. So the difference between them being Type A and Type B Free Agents could mean the difference between gaining 2 top 60 picks (supplemental picks) and 4 top 60 picks (first round picks and supplemental picks).

And given the relative lack of OF options on the free agent market this year, Kubel and Cuddyer figure to be two of the most highly sought after FA's on the market. Carlos Beltran figures to be the most in demand since he has a contract clause which precludes the Giants from offering him arbitration after the season and thus will cost a signing team no draft pick compensation. But after him, Kubel and Cuddyer are probably the two best FA options, given age and talent.

It's worth noting that Matt Capps would qualify as a Type A Free Agent (if this example alone doesn't illustrate there is a flaw in the current system, I don't know what does) but the Twins would be fairly insane to offer him arbitration knowing that he could accept a 1-year deal in the $9-10M range through arbitration. So we'll just focus on Cuddyer and Kubel's cases and what the next month means for them and the Twins.

More after the jump.

For all projections, the best source I know of is Eddie Bajek's reverse-engineered ranking projections, found here:

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/08/elias-rankings-update-2.html

As of the August 24th update, Jason Kubel ranked as the highest rated Type B in the American League DH/1b/OF grouping, with a score of 72.069. To be considered a Type A FA, you need to be in the top 20% in your position group. So essentially, Kubel needs to have a good month and pass one of the following players:

Josh Willingham Oakland 76.522 OF

Kevin Youkilis Boston 75.789 1b

Delmon Young Detroit 75.507 OF

Carl Crawford Boston 75.362 OF

Jacoby Ellsbury Boston 74.783 OF

These are the players Kubel seems to have the only realistic shot of passing in this grouping. Of note:

Kevin Youkilis has now played 105 games at 3b in 2010-2011, and 105 games at 1b in 2010-2011. So if he plays more games at 3b than 1b over the next month (all but a lock when Adrian Gonzalez plays 1b) he should shift into a different grouping. This is the most realistic chance of Kubel becoming a Type A, unless he has a much better month in the Elias rankings formula than one of the other Boston players or, ironically, Delmon Young. Too funny. I think he makes it based on Kevin Youkilis' status though. But basically, root against these Boston players this month and for Kubel. It helps that Kubel's smacked a couple of HR's since this August 24th projection update.

Michael Cuddyer:

This case is perplexing to me. Cuddyer has been one of the highest ranked Type A's in Bajek's projections all year until the last 2 updates, where he's fallen behind even Kubel. Many have speculated that this is based on Cuddyer's games played at 1b vs. OF over the last 2 seasons. But that doesn't seem to make sense given that OF's and 1b are in the same grouping. Still, if that is the reason for his drop, as seems to be the case, then the Twins still have control over his status. In the July 26th projection from Bajek, for instance, Cuddyer ranked as an OF'er with a 81.549 rating and was in the top 10 of all FA's in the rankings, at all positions and in both leagues. As of this date, Michael Cuddyer has played 130 games at 1b in 2010 and 2011 and 131 games in the OF. So he should shift back to his status as a Type A in the newest projection. Failing that, Cuddyer's ranking is currently at 68.421 and these are the Type B's ahead of him, plus the Type A's listed above:

Jason Kubel Minnesota 72.609 OF

Bobby Abreu Los Angeles 70.290 OF

Vladimir Guerrero Baltimore 70.000 DH

Carlos Quentin Chicago 68.986 OF

Based on the above, it's going to be hard for Cuddyer to pass these players given his current injury status. So in his case, we have to hope that his ranking will shift again based on his OF/1b status. If that's the case, the Twins better pay attention the next month or so and insure that he plays more games in the OF than at 1b. Play Plouffe at 1b, Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, or whoever. I don't care. Just keep Michael Cuddyer away.

In summation, I still think it's likely that Kubel and Cuddyer both make it as Type A FA's by the end of this year based on position status (Cuddyer's and Youkilis') but it's going to be close. We should be rooting for both of these guys this next month to do well, if nothing else to give the Twins more leverage and options as they go into a 2012 offseason that will be riddled with questions and a lot of tough work to do.

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