Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hall Contract: Good News For Twins?

In the last post, Nick Nelson talked about Joe Mauer and the possibility of signing him to a long-term contract. With Justin Morneau, Lew Ford, Nick Punto, and Juan Rincon all having signed short-term deals to avoid arbitration, that leaves only one arbitration-eligible player left to discuss: Michael Cuddyer.

An interesting signing occurred yesterday involving the club next door, as the Brewers signed super-utility slugger Bill Hall to a four-year, $24 million dollar extension with a fifth-year option. The salaries go from $3 this coming year, to $4.8 in 2008, to $6.8 in 2009, to $8.4 million. Now, for those of you who don't know much about Hall, he is a pretty interesting story.

For several years, many scouts didn't think Hall would even be much of a major leaguer. He didn't have enough power, he struck out way too much, and he couldn't hit for average. That seemed to stick for a while, but in 2005, Hall was given significant time as a utility-player and put up a .291/.342/.495 line with 17 homers, 62 RBI, 39 doubles, and 18 steals in 501 at-bats. A lot of people weren't sure if this was the real Hall or not, but he seemed to take away any doubt last year.

Hall broke out in a major way in 2006, hitting .270/.345/.553 with an astonishing 35 homers, 85 RBI, 39 doubles, and 101 runs scored, leading the Brewers in several major hitting categories. Along with Prince Fielder, Hall has given the Brewers a potent power bat. Of course, he did strike out 162 times last year in 537 at-bats, but his 63 walks were a good improvement.

So why do I bring Hall up? Because I think he makes for a good comparison with Cuddyer. As you may recall, Cuddyer hit .284/.362/.504 last year with 24 homers, 109 RBI, 102 runs scored, and 41 doubles. Cuddyer obviously differs in some ways, as his RISP numbers are significantly better than Hall's (.313/.412/.580 vs. .239/.338/.433) attest to him having more RBI. But he's also in a superior lineup. Overall though, they are similar. Cuddyer walked nearly as much (62 to Hall's 63), struck out plenty (130 K to 162), had plenty of extra-base hits (70 to 78), and ran a little bit (6 SBs to 8, although Hall got caught 9 times).

Overall, they are both versatile but not great fielders, hit for some power and decent average, and are young enough (27) to be worth a solid four-year investment. In what has been a crazy offseason, its good to see a contract like the one given to Hall. The Twins would be smart to do the same for Cuddyer. Even if it's for more money or less years, it would be worthwhile. I'd say with Hall's deal, a four-year, $28 million deal should get it down. Lets hope the Twins and Cuddyer can get it done.