MLB Free Agents 2012: Twins' Hope for Cuddyer Return Won't End Well

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIDecember 16, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 26: Drew Butera #41 of the Minnesota Twins congratulates Michael Cuddyer #5 on a two-run home run against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning on September 26, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Michael Cuddyer has played his last game with the Minnesota Twins, even if the franchise is unaware of that fact.

As Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune pointed out, the Twins payroll is currently around $96 million. General manager Terry Ryan has said that the team doesn't want to go over $100 million. He's looking for a three-year, $30 million offer. Case closed. 

Christensen mentions the Rockies, Mariners, Phillies and Red Sox as teams who have all expressed interest. There also always seems to be a mystery team or two thrown into the mix during free agency, especially for a player with Cuddyer's skill and versatility. 

It's not so much that a three-year, $30 million contract is an average of $10 million per year. That would put the 2011 payroll at around $106 million. The $6 million difference isn't that big of a deal. The problem is that at that length, it will bog the Twins in future seasons as the rest of their contracts grow. 

While Christensen is skeptical that he'll get an offer like that, I am not. When there's more than one team that's even remotely interested, offers will never come in low. Certainly, that will be the case with Cuddyer. 

With the exception of the Mariners, every one of those teams is in a better position to win than the Twins. The American League Central is a rising division. At the top is the Tigers, who have a strong foundation to be good for an awfully long time.

The Twins' teams that were once dominant in the AL Central are now afterthoughts. Stars Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have spent a lot of time in recent seasons on the Disabled List. More importantly, the pitching is poor, especially given the stadium that they now call home. 

There's no reason to think that Cuddyer will come back to the Twin Cities. When they spent $21 million over three years on Josh Willingham, they effectively gave up on Cuddyer. 

Even if they're just rumored, the inclusion of big market teams like the Phillies and Red Sox in the bidding will only drive Cuddyer's price up. 

The internal hope may be that the Twins sign Cuddyer, but that's not a realistic thought. He'll be in another uniform on Opening Day.