Could Josh Willingham be the consolation prize for the Minnesota Twins if they lose out on the Michael Cuddyer sweepstakes?
As we discussed last night, Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune reported yesterday that the Twins have recently been in contact with agent Matt Sosnick, who represents both Willingham and Ryan Doumit. This was the first time I had seen the Twins officially linked to Willingham, who will be a Type-A free agent following a monster (29 homers, 98 RBIs) season with the Oakland As in 2011.
Willingham makes complete sense for the Twins, who are at risk of losing both Cuddyer and Jason Kubel this offseason. Of course, a consistently productive right-handed hitter coming off a 29 homer season makes sense for a lot of teams, so the Twins will obviously face stiff competition if they plan on making a serious run for the 32-year-old outfielder.
So how does Willingham stack up against Cuddyer and Kubel, the players he may be replacing in the lineup?
I'll explain the chart after the jump:
The chart above, as you've probably already figured out, compares the performance of these players against right and left-handed pitching over the past three seasons. The metric used is Weighted On-Base Average, which you can learn more about here.
The contrast is pretty striking. Both Cuddyer and Kubel have exhibited significant platoon splits over the past several seasons. The white dotted line on the graph represents the average wOBA for Major League outfielders over the past three seasons (.332), which I put on the graph to emphasize the fact that both Kubel and Cuddyer have both been below-average hitters against same-handed pitchers over that time frame. Willingham, on the other hand, has been great against southpaws while remaining very productive against right-handers.
I've openly questioned whether Cuddyer will remain an everyday player over the course of a three- or four-year contract, given his age and recent struggles against right-handed pitching. While Willingham is not without his warts - which are summed up nicely in this article - the balance and consistency he brings to the lineup is just one reason Twins fans should be encouraged by the fact he's on Terry Ryan's radar.