He’s known nothing but the Minnesota Twins organization during his professional baseball career, but on Friday, All-Star right fielder/first baseman/everything Michael Cuddyer signed a three-year, $31.5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies.
There was writing on the wall that Cuddyer might be on the way out when the Twins signed former A’s outfielder Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million deal.
The Twins obviously took their Plan B when choosing Willingham after Cuddyer wouldn't sign. The Twins offered a three-year, $25 million deal to Cuddyer, but he didn't take it. Cuddyer elected to take $6.5 million more and move the family to Denver.
It’s disappointing that Cuddyer left, but this essential swap of Cuddyer for Willingham is a great move for the Twins.
There is one obvious downfall of exchanging Willingham for Cuddyer, Cuddyer is by far much better with the glove. In his 11 seasons with the Twins, Cuddyer played at every position on the field except for catcher.
In Willingham’s eight-year career he’s played left field, right field, catcher and first base. Willingham has played in 662 games in left, 35 in right, 15 at catcher and 3 at first base. Compare that with Cuddyer, who has played 670 games in right, 210 at first and 171 at third, and it’s easy to see who the better fielder is.
Willingham overpowers Cuddyer’s power numbers; last year Willingham hit 29 home runs while Cuddyer only hit 20. Willingham also had a higher slugging percentage—.477 compared with Cuddyer’s .459—and a higher OPS, .809 compared with Cuddyer’s .805. Willingham (98 RBI) also knocked in 28 more runs than Cuddyer (70 RBI) last year.
It looks like Willingham will fill in nicely for Cuddyer; his pop will be a nice addition to a lineup with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. The main thing the Willingham signing does, though, is free up money for additional free agents.
Willingham signed for $21 million, and Cuddyer signed for $35.5 million. The Twins essentially saved $10.5 million, which they can put toward pitching. To win in baseball you need a good pitching staff, and signing Cuddyer would have hampered the effort to bolster the pitching. Singing Willingham gives the Twins flexibility in signing pitching.
It’s always a sad day when a fan favorite leaves town, but when it makes his former team better, his old fans won’t be sad for long.