Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One-Year Deals and Cuddy in Center

Last week I wrote about the Twins' five arbitration-eligible players, noting that I felt it would be wise to lock up two of them -- Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel -- to long-term deals. In the following days, the Twins signed both of those players to contracts, but they were both one-year commitments, with Morneau's being worth $7.4 million and Kubel's worth $1.3 million. The Twins also agreed to a one-year deal with Juan Rincon that will pay him $2.475 million in 2008. That is a relatively small increase from his $2 million salary a year ago, which makes sense given his struggles.

It's disappointing to see the Twins fail to lock down Morneau and Kubel, yet understandable given the uncertainty surrounding Johan Santana and his future with the team. Plus, longer extensions could be reached with either player in the future. As La Velle noted on his blog last week, "Signing Morneau to a one-year deal doesn’t mean they can’t tear up the contract for a long-term deal. They did that exact thing a few years ago with Corey Koskie." I wouldn't be surprised to see this happen with Morneau after the Santana issue gets sorted out, although I doubt they'll look to sign Kubel to a long-term extension this offseason as much as I think it would be a good idea. I can hardly fault the Twins if they remain a little concerned about Kubel's knees.

The Twins now have two arbitration-eligible players remaining: Matt Guerrier and Michael Cuddyer. Guerrier filed for $1.15 million while the club filed for $750,000; I imagine the two sides will reach a deal right around $1 million in the near future. The gap between Cuddyer and the club is larger, as Cuddyer filed for $6.2 million -- $1.5 million more than the team's offer of $4.7 million. Last year, Cuddyer and the Twins very nearly went before an arbitrator, but reached an agreement at $3.75 million at the last second. Given the disparity between the numbers filed by the two sides this year, it seems quite possible that this case could go before an arbitrator, but the Twins are financially in a position where they can easily afford to pay Cuddyer around $5.5 million, so reaching a mid-point would make sense and save a lot of hassle for both sides.

Speaking of Cuddyer, many feathers were ruffled this weekend when Ron Gardenhire had the following quote in a Charley Walters column in the Sunday edition of the Pioneer Press:
Torii Hunter's successor in center field for the Twins could be Michael Cuddyer.

"With Delmon Young in right and Jason Kubel in left," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

That's a consideration of Gardenhire's if minor leaguers Denard Span and Jason Pridie can't convince the manager during spring training that they're ready to succeed Hunter, who left for the Los Angeles Angels via free agency.

"I'm going to talk to Cuddy about it," Gardenhire said.

The idea of Cuddyer playing center field is nothing short of horrifying, given the fact that his range is sub par even for a right fielder. However, I think the reaction to this quote has been a little over-the-top. I realize the information is coming straight from the horse's mouth, but I can't imagine that Gardenhire would ever actually pencil Cuddyer into center field. In such a scenario, it would seem that Craig Monroe would be the full-time DH. That's bad enough as it is, because there's no way Monroe should be counted on as an everyday player, but if that's truly what Gardenhire wants to do, it would make a lot more sense to DH Kubel and have Monroe play center field. That's still far from ideal, and one would hope that the Twins can acquire a legitimate center fielder before the offseason is over, or that Pridie can step up and seize the job in spring training.

5 comments:

Matt P said...

I can deal with the one year deals, as Morneau will likely be locked up if the cash is freed up from the Johan trade. Cuddyer at center is a joke. He is a far cry from what a center fielder should be and I think Monroe playing center could be advantageous given the hard time White had with it. A true center fielder would definitely be nice though.

MVB said...

Hey Nicks,

It's good to see the Twins lock up the players, but hopefully after this Santana business is finished we can work on some long term deals.

Do you feel GM Bill Smith overplayed his hand in waiting for Santana? Will we end up with a subpar deal?

Also, any tips on increasing readership for your blog? I'm not sure what to do? Would you guys mind linking me to your blog?

Thanks for now, it's going to be an interesting couple weeks until spring training

Nick N. said...

I don't think Smith has "overplayed his hand." I'm quite dubious of these reports that the Yankees and Red Sox have reduced their offers. I'm hearing rumblings that the Twins are very close to pulling the trigger on a deal with the Mets though.

I've added a link to your blog on our sidebar. Keep up the good work!

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