Jesse looked at Torii Hunter's comments to Jim Souhan yesterday, in which Hunter laments the two-year, $16M offer set forth by the Twins to Michael Cuddyer. I think it's fair to say that Cuddyer can fetch more than that in terms of years, total dollars, and average annual value on the free agent market, and the Twins will likely want to be competitive, but to what end?
Troy Renck of the Denver Post has stated that he believes Cuddy will be the Rockies' No. 1 free agent target this offseason, and there's a slew of other teams who could use some right-handed pop, veteran leadership, defensive versatility, and someone to wow the rookies with dazzling displays of magic. So at what point should the Twins bow out of the Cuddyer sweepstakes if it really heats up this season? I'll look at some things to consider after the jump.
I posted a lot of this in a comment on the Hunter thread last night, but I think it's worth it's own discussion, so let's dig into some things here.
Over the last six seasons, Cuddyer has a 115 OPS+ -- that's adjusted for both park and league, with 100 being an average Major League hitter. Cuddy's been about 15% better than a typical Major League hitter. That's a solid, plus bat to have in your lineup, but it's also not as elite as it may seem when compared to the rest of the Twins' paltry offense this year. There's also the fact that he's never consistently achieved strong numbers. He's had a mark of 124 three times, but there have also been an 89, a 107, and a 112 mixed in there. As he exits his prime, he's more likely to be closer to 100 than the 124 we've seen this year and in years past.
Cuddyer's 2011 OPS ranks 51st in the Majors among qualified hitters, and his OPS+ of 124 would place him in a three-way tie with Nick Swisher and Ryan Howard for 46th. Howard's a flashy, impressive name to see at first, but it's worth noting that on the season, Howard's batting just .251/.343/.489. Those are solid offensive numbers, but they're probably not what you'd expect to see immediately upon hearing the former MVP's name.
Also, Cuddyer's 2011 value has been aided by the fact that he's not in the outfield often. It's much easier to mask his defensive issues at first base than it is to mask them when he's playing right field. He looks to have improved at first this season, but he's still not much of a defender in right field, and on a three-year commitment you can only imagine that outfield defense getting worse. Eventually, he's probably best-suited to take on a role similar to Michael Young's in Texas this season -- DHing and occasionally filling in around the diamond for injuries, days off, etc. The versatility is valuable, but that value is also depressed by the fact that he won't be a defensive asset anywhere and most days wouldn't even need a glove.
If a team makes something along the lines of $11-$12M annually for 2-3 seasons -- which I think is possible -- it's not going to be financially responsible for the Twins to sign that kind of contract. Keep in mind that Mauer and Morneau are going to cost a combined $37M per year through 2013. Those contracts look incredibly unfortunate right now, but the reality is that they're there, we're stuck with them, and we have to hope for the best. However, allotting another $11-$12M per season on a utility player who really doesn't excel defensively and possesses an inconsistent track record for his age 33-35 seasons is the kind of move that can handcuff a franchise. Can the Twins really afford to tie up $48-$49M per year from 2012-13 with the hope that Cuddyer stays consistent and the M&M Boys return to form? Regardless of Cuddyer's clubhouse value and his presence in the Twin Cities community, this is still a business, and tying up 43% of a $112M payroll in wishful thinking is a tremendous risk.
If Cuddyer is willing to take a hometown discount to stay in Minnesota, or if he simply wishes to accept arbitration and remain here on a one-year deal worth $12-$13M or so, that's one thing. But shelling out the kind of money it will likely require to make a competitive bid for the tail end of his prime and beyond seems short-sighted. Hunter may think Bill Smith is cold and heartless, but in some instances, sentimentality has to be put aside for sound decision-making.
Cuddyer currently projects as a Type A free agent, so if the Twins do offer arbitration and he signs elsewhere, keep in mind the Twins would get a first or second round draft pick (depending on the team who signs him) and a supplemental rounder. If the Rockies sign him, the Twins would get their second round pick (according to current standings) since their first rounder is a Top 15 pick, and therefore protected. Other suitors I can see include the Reds, Giants, and Braves -- all of whom would net a first rounder according to the current standings.
Let's throw out a poll to see what everyone thinks, and call it a day from there.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball, and contributes at 612Sports.net. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve