Michael Cuddyer's Departure Signals End of Minnesota Twins Renaissance Era

Chris SchadContributor IIIDecember 17, 2011

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Michael Cuddyer #5 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after a strikeout against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 4, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Michael Cuddyer signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies on Friday. The move came after the Minnesota Twins decided that financial restraint and draft picks were more important than clubhouse leadership.

With that, the Twins signed their new right fielder Josh Willingham to a three-year contract worth $21 million.

Michael Cuddyer's departure from the Twins isn't a huge deal from a baseball perspective. Willingham is more of a pull hitter—which, as was pointed out in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's TwinCentric blog, should help him at Target Field—and those skills will help the Twins more than Cuddyer's. (Cuddyer has a better arm, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.)

Cuddyer was in Minnesota for 11 seasons. At the beginning of his career, he may not have been sure whether he would be playing in Minnesota or not.

At the end of the 2001 season, the Twins learned that Carl Pohlad would sell the team to Major League Baseball. At that point, the Twins—along with the Montreal Expos—were going to be contracted. It was an act that Montgomery Burns would be proud of.

Yet, the Twins were coming off their most successful season since 1991. They had started to mould young players who had cut their teeth through their minor league system, such as Torii Hunter, Doug Mientkiewicz and, yes, A.J. Pierzynski.

Cuddyer would join that group of Twins in 2002. While he didn't do much, he made the Twins playoff roster. That team didn't win the World Series, but it made a resounding statement that baseball was back in Minnesota.

The Twins would win five more American League Central championships with Cuddyer on their roster. As time went on, Cuddyer became more of a leader for the team. While the Twins wouldn't win another playoff game with Cuddyer, he still has cemented his legacy in the organization.

That's what made it so difficult for Cuddyer to leave. He did annoy some fans (like myself) to the point of calling him "The Master of the Meaningless Solo Bomb," but he had his place in Minnesota.

Cuddyer is replaceable on the field, but Twins fans will not soon forget him.