Could Cuddyer be the right-handed bat the Phils are missing?
As baseball continues to hurl itself headlong into the feeding frenzy that is the July 31st trade deadline, rumors continue to pop up faster than anyone knows what to do with them.
With about two weeks left until the deadline, it is my intention to address some of the Philadelphia Phillies rumors one by one and examine them a little more closely. Do they make sense for both teams? Do the salaries work? What will it cost to acquire the player?
Today, we will start with the on and off again rumors of Michael Cuddyer. He has been long rumored to be a target of the Phillies front office. For a while he seemed like the perfect trade candidate as the Twins were out of contention and he is due to hit free agency in the offseason. A recent surge by the Twins has put that into question, but the deal is worth exploring anyway.
Regardless of what position he plays, Cuddyer hammers left-handed pitching.
Cuddyer's biggest asset is his bat. Specifically that he bats from the right side of the plate. In a lineup filled with lefties such as Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown, it would be really nice to insert a strong right-handed bat.
Unlike some other suggested trade ideas, Cuddyer's right-handed bat pummels left-handed pitching. So far this season Cuddyer has a .352 batting average and 1.150 OPS against southpaws. For his career he has an an OPS approaching .900 against lefties. Wouldn't that look awfully nice batting behind Ryan Howard?
Another major asset is his versatility. In his career he has played a significant amount of games at first base, second base, third base, left field and right field. This could be important for the Phils. Polanco's back has not responded to treatment as hoped and is now requiring a cortisone shot. Even before that Polanco was mired in a two month long slump. What the Phils can get from an ailing Polanco moving forward is a question mark. Rather than get an outfield bat, a third base bat may end up being more prudent.
By getting a player such as Cuddyer, the Fightins could mix and match their lineup to create the best options. Let Cuddyer play third base if Polanco is struggling or injured. Have him in left field if Ibanez is struggling or Polanco gets hot. Even let him play in right field if both Ibanez and Polanco get hot while Brown struggles.
Cuddyer would be the best of both worlds for the Phils. He gives them the right-handed power they crave while providing the flexibility to fill in for injuries and slumps almost anywhere on the diamond.
Is acquiring Cuddyer worth dealing one of the baby aces?
In this particular trade, there really have not been any leaks as to what the Twins would demand in return for Cuddyer. However, the last few years have brought a couple of trades of similar type players. Players like Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa have had similar position flexibility, were in their 30s and swing a right-handed stick.
For acquiring Blake in 2008, the Dodgers gave the Indians Carlos Santana and John MeLoan. Santana would be named that offseason as the number 26 prospect in baseball. He has since gone on to become the Indians starting catcher and is quickly becoming one of the best catchers in the American League. MeLoan was a marginal 23 year old Triple-A starting pitcher who has since been switched to the bullpen, gotten injured, and moved on to the Athletics organization.
In the Mark DeRosa deal, the Indians received Chris Perez and the infamous player to be named later from the Cardinals. The deal was eventually completed with the Cards sending Jess Todd. At the time of the trade Perez was the number 91 prospect in baseball and has since gone on to become an All-Star closer for the Tribe. Much like MeLoan, Todd appears to be a marginal pitching prospect who has switched from the rotation to bullpen and has tapped out his potential as a Triple-A pitcher.
So if these deals are any indication, then the Phils are looking at giving up one top prospect to be complimented by a marginal player. This would suggest the Phils would need to give up someone like Brody Colvin or Trevor May plus a Joe Savery, Mike Zagurski or Drew Carpenter type.
Twins are having second thoughts about dealing the homegrown All-Star.
Here is the biggest obstacle preventing this deal from happening. It is not the money, although the $5.5 million he has left to earn this season is a definite hurdle for the Phils. It is not his impending free agency because the Phils will almost certainly offer arbitration in hopes of making him Ibanez's replacement in left field and at worst receiving compensatory picks. It is not even Cuddyer's no-trade clause as he has already said he will waive it.
It is the fact that the Twins are winning. Early in the season everything fell apart for the Twins. The bullpen struggled, the right side of their infield ended up on the disabled list and franchise cornerstone Joe Mauer endured a long stint on the DL.
In a year the Twins expected to be contending for the AL Central crown, they were instead cellar dwellers. They made a choice that older players like Cuddyer that had trade value could be expendable for the long term health of the organization.
That was a month ago. Since then they started winning—a lot. Since June 1st, the Twins have been on fire with a .643 winning percentage. The face of their franchise, Joe Mauer, has finally returned. Local support has not waned as they are still second in the AL in attendance and Cuddyer is one of the fan favorites. Since nobody in their division is running away with the title they once again have aspirations of October baseball. Because of all this, the Twins recently said that Cuddyer is off the trade market.
Could the All-Star still be on the move despite what the Twins say?
Given that the Twins have now turned their attentions away from dealing him and are instead focusing on extending him, it may seem that he is no longer a trade option.
But as Lee Corso often says, "Not so fast my friend."
The Twins are a very astute organization. They have managed to spend the better part of the last decade in contention despite a small market and limited payroll. They have managed to do so in large part by great player development and not getting bogged down with contracts of players in their 30s.
So by claiming to be working on an extension with Cuddyer, the Twins are really doing their due diligence. If Cuddyer is willing to take a hometown discount, then they will gladly extend him. After all, who's to say they won't just deal him next year should a similar situation arises.
However, should the Twins have a rough couple of weeks and find themselves 10 or more games out from the division come the deadline, do not be surprised if Cuddyer is suddenly back on the market.
As I said, the Twins are a smart organization. They know dealing Cuddyer for even just a single top prospect could help keep them in contention in the long run. Saving the money and getting young talent could prove to be more valuable to a team going nowhere this year than All-Star production and a hefty contract extension to a 32-year-old.
Time will tell but do not be surprised if when teams come calling later in the month the Twins listen.