MLB Free Agency 2012: 7 Reasons Minnesota Twins Should Let Michael Cuddyer Walk
During Cuddyer's tenure, the Twins have won six American League Central Division Championships. While Cuddyer hasn't been the best player on the team during those years, Cuddyer's presence has been felt.
Whether it's younger players coming up or a clutch home run, Cuddyer has been one of the most recognizable faces for the Twins. But Cuddyer is in his first free agency courtship, and it's not clear whether he will return to the Twins or go to another suitor such as the Colorado Rockies.
In my opinion, the Twins would be better off if they let Michael Cuddyer walk.
Cuddyer Is Overvalued by the Twins
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When I was thinking about this slide, I was trying to decide whether Cuddyer was over-rated or overvalued.
The argument that Cuddyer is over-rated could be a justifiable one. In his 11 seasons, Cuddyer has driven in over 100 runs just once (2006). He's hit over .280 just twice (2006, 2011). He's hit 20 home runs in a season three times (2006, 2009, 2011). For all the press that Cuddyer gets about being protection for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, his numbers aren't that great.
However, it seems like Cuddyer is more overvalued by the Twins than over-rated. The Twins have loved Cuddyer's work ethic and loyalty towards the franchise. It's almost like they live by the John Cena motto of "Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect" because Cuddyer gives them all three.
Yes, Cuddyer gives the Twins many things. He's a leader in the clubhouse. He can play multiple positions. He can do magic tricks to entertain people. He's a very good baseball player, but he's not a great one.
Cuddyer Is Shockingly Overpaid
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Michael Cuddyer made $10.5 million for the Minnesota Twins last season. As you saw in the last slide, Cuddyer's numbers hardly reflect a guy who should be making that kind of money. Granted, he did make the All-Star team last season, but that was because the usual candidates (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan) were injured or not playing well.
Cuddyer simply isn't worth that kind of money, but doesn't mean he's not going to ask for that amount. Reports from Ken Rosenthal have said that Cuddyer has asked for a three-year, $30 million deal from the Twins. In classic Twins fashion, they have countered with a three-year, $27 million offer.
To pay $9 million for a utility guy is ridiculous. Especially when production from said utility guy could come at half the price from a guy the Twins just signed.
The Twins Have a Glut of Up and Coming Outfielders
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"Fear The Mullet" may be something Twins fans may become familiar with at Target Field. Joe Benson was given a cup of coffee in September as the Twins were clear out of the race. Benson was honored as one of Baseball America's top 100 prospects at the beginning of the year. He figures to play a significant part of the Twins future as does Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia.
While none of these players are ready now, the Twins giving Cuddyer a three-year deal would impact their path to the big leagues. At age 32, Cuddyer will see a decline in his numbers at some point. Then the prospects could come in, but maybe Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wants to keep his boy in the lineup for "vetran experience." At this point, it could cause some damage to the timetable to get the kids into the big leagues.
The Twins are known for developing their own talent, and keeping one guy past his prime would do more harm than good.
The Twins Are in Rebuilding Mode
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Can you name a single player in the above photograph? Yeah, I couldn't either. Twins fans probably need to get used to this.
Nobody in the Twins clubhouse or front office will say this, but the Twins are about to embark on a rebuilding project. When a team loses 99 games with a $100 million payroll, changes need to be made and usually that means that youthful changes are coming.
For a 32-year-old outfielder like Cuddyer, it may not be something he wants to do.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies are in the same position. While their situation isn't as dire as the Twins is, the Rockies aren't close to competing in the National League West. That might scare Cuddyer away as well.
What might really appeal to Cuddyer is a contender picking up the phone and giving him a call. This situation may help the Twins more as they would get a compensation pick in the upcoming draft due to Cuddyer's Type A free agent status.
While it might not be the signing team's first rounder, it's still an early pick in the draft. With the cupboards almost bare in the minor league system (with the exception of the outfielders I explained in the last slide), it might behoove the Twins to stockpile assets than keep expensive players.
Michael Cuddyer Is Replaceable
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Because Cuddyer's stats are not the eye-popping numbers that $10 million is worth, the Twins may decide to go cheap if they need to replace him. That's where recent free agent pickup Ryan Doumit comes in.
Doumit was signed by the Twins in early November to a one-year, $4 million deal. While Doumit's primary position is catcher, he also played right field and first base on occasion for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Oddly enough, Michael Cuddyer plays mainly right field and first base. Sensing a pattern?
The pickup of Doumit is a sleek one by interim General Manager Terry Ryan. While Doumit has had problems staying on the field, he's been known to be a fairly productive hitter. He has struggled some years, but Pittsburgh has been a black hole for developing talent (see Pedro Alvarez...not Andrew McCutcheon).
Doumit is just one of many internal options that the Twins could use. They could opt to use Rene Tosoni in right field in order to see what he has. They could even put (GASP!) Joe Mauer out in right to see if that works.
Michael Cuddyer Is Preventing the Twins from Making Any Moves
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Michael Cuddyer wants $10 million a year to sign on the dotted line. The Twins have to keep that salary space open if they want to bring Cuddyer aboard.
Remember, even thought the Twins opened Target Field two years ago, they still plan on shedding payroll. With a team that has as many holes as the Twins do, it's frustrating to see them sit on their hands and wait while Cuddyer picks a team.
While this is happening, quality players are going off the free agent board and the Twins are left wondering how to fill all of these holes. Eventually, Terry Ryan may be making a call to Tony Batista to fill a spot if things don't accelerate.
In Cuddyer's defense, he and his wife just had twin girls last week while the winter meetings were going on in Dallas. It was said in the local media that Cuddyer wanted to get a deal reached during the meetings, but I would understand if he had his hands full. However, according to the Rosenthal report, Cuddyer could be waiting for a contender to swoop in and rescue him from the Rockies and the Twins.
If that's what's happening, the longer Cuddyer waits, the more the Twins get burned if he decides to leave.
The Twins Will Be Just Fine Without Michael Cuddyer
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While Michael Cuddyer is considered a favorite in the clubhouse and in the minds of Twins fans, the reality is the Twins will be just fine if they let him go.
It seems to be a pattern with Twins fans and management that if a player has one good season, they're forever validated. That's why the Twins went after Chris Capuano because he won 18 games in 2005. Cuddyer's 2006 season will be remembered the same way.
I even saw Rochester Red Wings announcer Josh Whetzel refer to Jacque Jones as a "Twins great." Ugh...
Michael Cuddyer belongs in the Hall of Very Good instead of the Hall of Fame. He'll be a player that Twins fans will remember forever, but the Twins aren't going to retire his No. 5 or anything. He'll just be a memory.
This is why if Cuddyer chooses to leave, it won't be the end of the world.