Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cuddyer Conundrum

Michael Cuddyer is a pretty controversial player.

Some believe he's a consummate teammate whose willingness to move around the field extends his value drastically beyond what he does at the plate. Others believe his relatively poor defense at each position he can fill makes him a liability.

Some believe his ability to provide right-handed power has been vital to the success of a lefty-dominated lineup over the past several years. Others believe that, with his inconsistency and lack of clutch hitting at the dish, his offensive game is hugely overrated.

Some believe his effervescent and affable nature helps keep the clubhouse loose. Others believe his lack of fiery competitiveness is the type of thing that keeps the team from being able to step up to the big bad Yanks.

Regardless of where you fall in this debate, it's no secret how the Twins view Cuddyer. Ron Gardenhire called him the team's MVP earlier in the season, and while that statement is laughable based on Cuddy's production, John Bonnes was astute in pointing out a few weeks ago that the manager has a better grasp than anyone on what players do behind the scenes to help a team win. Gardy's not unaware that Cuddyer's core numbers -- whether we're talking about average, OPS, homers, RBI -- were the lowest they've been since 2005 (outside of an injury-riddled 2008 campaign). I'm inclined to believe that Cuddyer is a more valuable guy to have on the roster than his statistics would suggest.

With that being said, there's almost no way to justify the $10.5 million he's going to make next year after the season he just had. Calling Cuddyer's numbers in 2010 mediocre is being kind; he spent the majority of his time playing offense-heavy positions (poorly) and came up with just a .271/.336/.417 line with 14 homers over 157 games.

Cuddyer's salary next year is tied up in a club option, but a strange stipulation in his contract forced the Twins to decide on that option after last year. At that point, Cuddy had just finished up perhaps the best campaign of his career, having posted an .862 OPS with 32 homers and 94 RBI with a late boost in September that was extremely significant in the team's surge for a division title.

So, the Twins activated his option with little hesitation. Had they faced that decision now, I'd have to think they would at least have to think twice. He's a $10 million wild card. In his best seasons, he's provided a key right-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup, but only twice in his career has he fulfilled that promise and for the most part he has been -- as Aaron Gleeman aptly puts it -- "a perfectly solid player who's paid like and treated as a star." To top it all off, Cuddyer just had surgery on a knee which he now says bothered him all season long.

The Twins already have a lot of money invested in wild cards next year. Joe Nathan will make $11.25 million in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Justin Morneau, whose status is completely uncertain after he missed the second half this year with a concussion, will make $14 million. And in Cuddyer, the Twins will be paying $10.5 million to a 32-year-old coming off a disappointing season and knee surgery.

No matter what you think about Cuddyer, there's simply no denying that his hefty guaranteed salary next year poses a serious conundrum for a team that is already staring at some considerable payroll issues. He's locked in and his contract is essentially unmovable, so the Twins are stuck with him at this point. Given the questions surrounding Morneau, it's nice to have a guy around who can competently cover at first base, but $10.5 million should buy you a lot more production than Cuddyer has given this team in three of the past four years, regardless of what he's providing off the field.


NoDak Twins Fan said...

It will be interesting to see how Cuddyer performs next year. I think if he stays in the outfield for the entire season that his numbers will improve. Not knowing what position you are going to play on any given day can really add to frustrations at the plate. This is no excuse but it will still be interesting to find out.

Anonymous said...

Unmovable? If Milton Bradley & his $10-mill deal can be dealt ANYONE is tradeable.

Nick N. said...

If Milton Bradley & his $10-mill deal can be dealt ANYONE is tradeable.

I don't think moving Cuddyer for another terrible contract is a palatable solution.

Anonymous said...

Whats the conundrum here? Whether to trade cuddyer or not? No one would take on the contract for an average player and a dime a dozen corner outfield spot. Id be surprised if they could get rid of cuddyer as a pure salary dump, and im not sure theyd get significant value back if they ate most of the deal. Platoon him with kubel, thome, someother right handed batter, and stop giving contract to bad defensive, average offensive corner outfielders.

Ed Bast said...

Cuddy exemplifies why the Twins are going to struggle in the next couple years to remain competitive, and will make us fans realize how 2010 was really our best chance for a WS.

Look: Cuddy, Nathan, Morneau, and Capps will make around $42 mil next year.

For the record, that's a replacement level outfielder, a closer who was proved utterly replaceable this year, a guy who hasn't played in the playoffs the last 2 years and may never play again, and a career below-average closer who is arguably the 4th best closer on the roster.

The Phillies are spending $45 mil/year on Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels.

And I haven't even mentioned Mauer's crippling contract.

If all 11 FAs walk this offseason, their payroll will still eclipse $100 mil.

Sorry, but 2011 has letdown year written all over it.

Anonymous said...

Cuddyer is above replacement level. Hes been typically average according to rar, last year he was below average. Nathans contract was a bad idea from the beginning. I thought it was silly that the twins wouldnt have made the trade for capps if he didnt have another year on his deal because that extra year was going to be very expensive. Youd think with all the success the twins have had plugging solid setup men into the closers role that theyd understand its not worth paying a premium for, but next year 20 mil will be given to capps and nathan because theyve been handed save opportunities in the past.

Anonymous said...

What about Kubel? The Twins could trade him and his .083 post-season average, which would take 5 million off the books.

Why don't we package him with Slowey and a prospect for Zack Greinke?

Anonymous said...

because you couldnt

Nick N. said...

What about Kubel? The Twins could trade him and his .083 post-season average, which would take 5 million off the books.

Kubel has hit 20 homers in each of the past three years. Who's making up that production next year? Also, what happens if he goes somewhere else and repeats his 2009 campaign?

Kubel's $5.5M is not high on the Twins' list of misallocated payroll.

Matt said...

If he clubs 32 again, he's worth it but if he's on the pine due to injury, he's not. Simply put, Cuddy's always been a risk due to him being injury prone.
Bill Smith knew this was their best chance for several years, I doubt if he goes out mid season next year and signs/trades for bullpen or starting pitcher help unless they're surprisingly good with what they've got on hand.

Bryan said...

Kubel isn't that good of a defender and pretty much has to be a DH. Are the Twins going to bring back Thome next year? If they do, someone has got to go. These guys have to fill 3 spots (LF/RF/DH):

Kubel, Cuddyer, Thome, Morneau, Delmon Young.

You can only pay 3 in a game and all 3 make over $5,000,000. That's an enormous waste of money.

I'm thinking we might see a little fire sale this year if the Twins are out of it early. Overpaid mediocre pitchers (Blackburn, Baker), a closer who could have value (Nathan, if he pitches again), a replaceable leadoff hitter (Span with Revere). The Twins might start the year with a similar lineup, but end the year without Nathan, Young, Kubel, Thome, and any valuable bullpen arm.

Anonymous said...

Nick blackburn has 0 trade value, and most of the guys you listed have very little besides potential span. If span can hit like he did in 09 ben revere wouldnt be capable of replacing him. Im not sure why people think the twins will be terrible next year. They main people are still here and the division isnt very good. The twins will still be the favorite to win the division baring some big increase in talent from the sox or tigers

Laches said...

A good example of why it's going to be difficult to build championship team around Mauer and Morneau with strict payroll limits. We're probably not going to get much for Cuddyer in the offseason. It makes sense to me to bring him back, see what he can do, and see who else is out there that's cheaper. Maybe he earns his $10 mil. Or maybe we find a guy cheaper who replaces his production and makes him expendable. Maybe as the deadline approaches and teams are looking for help, he'd fetch us something in return. He's a good and versatile enough player than someone may well want him.

Paul said...

why is everyone so concerned with the twins payroll. yes its bigger then it was in the past, but is there any shred of evidence that they cant afford it. They just opened a new ballpark (that my taxes help pay for) and sold out pretty much every game. I dont see why every game wont be sold out next year. If anything i bet they can afford a lot more then Bill Smith leads the fans to believe. If they wanna keep selling game after game, suck it up, spend some money, and win a world series

Anonymous said...

Let me vent a little bit here.
Not this has anything to do with this specific post.
The twins lost to the Yankees in 3 straight games in the ALDS, and I think its time the twins fans and ownership do some soul searching and figure out how to get past the first round and start having some success in October.
First of all: Twins fans in general are very complacent and content with mediocrity. Meaning, year after year we make the playoffs and get bounced in the first round, (lately dominance by the Yankees).
And there is no sense of urgency from ownership all the way down to the fans.
Granted the twins don't have the talent that the Yankees have, but maybe its time to get some real talent that is capable of succeeding in October.
Sorry to put it this way, but the Yankees worst starting pitcher in the ALDS happened to be their ace ie; CC Sabathia and none of the twins starters were able to match even him, never mind the other Yankees starters, this is besides the twins not being able to get a single clutch hit in 3 games in the series.
You can not tell me that kubel is close to the player swisher is, neither is cuddyer anything close to Mark Texieria, neither is hardy anything close to jeter etc. etc. etc.
So my point being is that if you want to win which I hope you do (cuz otherwise you are wasting your time as fans rooting for a team that you don't want to win)
then the answer is not to trade santana and let go of torii hunter and not to sign or trade for Cliff Lee. You can not win championships in this day and age without spending the money, its as simple as that, imagine the twins would have had johan santana and cliff lee and torii hunter, we might be talking about the twins in the ALCS now, instead we are sitting home watching the Yankees play the Rangers.
We as fans need to stand up and not take this crap anymore, we pay a lot for season tickets, we watch the games on TV which the twins make money from, we buy at the concessions at beautiful target field, but its only beautiful if you're competing seriously to win a championship. And it is very obvious from ownership and from the General Manager and the manager all the way down to the players that they are lackadaisical about this team and about winning.
Everyone was happy when the twins signed Joe Mauer to that long term deal which was a great move, but what else and whats next for this team???
Are they going to try to convince me that they are committed to winning by giving hudson another contract and by bring kubel back and resigning all these stiffs who cant pitch or hit in the big stage and under the bright lights????
Well I am not convinced and if you are, I feel really bad for you, you are living in a bubble and living in a fantasy world, because cuddyer and kubel and hardy and co. are not what it takes to win in October, so maybe its time to step up as fans and speak up and voice our opinions and say enough is enough, we are not showing up to the ballpark until you show us that you mean business.
For how much longer will us real die hard twins fans suffer and put up with this crap enough is enough!!!!
So lets speak up and go get 'em in the offseason and spend the money and go get Cliff Lee and snatch him away from the Yankees and get Carl Crawford etc. and finally bring a world series championship back to Minnesota!!

Anonymous said...

'mous, the only thing youre right about is that hardy is no where close jeter because hardy was better this year. Granted Derek Jeter had the worst year of his career big time but jj hardy is very under rated.

If the twins had kept hunter and santana theyd have a very expensive, aging, always injured 5th starter in santana, and a very expensive, bad defensive, aging, still solidly above average player in hunter. Playing moneyball with mid 30's veterans with huge contracts is the opposite of what the twins should do. Its a recipe for a 150 mil payroll and disappointment (see cubs, tigers from 2 years ago).

And you cant build a team thats a good bet to succeed in a 5 game series.

If the twins want to win in the future, they should take all the money they were thinking about giving to so slow footed 35 year old veteran, and use that money to buy a bunch of Dominicans and sign a bunch of high end draft choices.

Matt said...

Anon -
Saying money is the only way to win is foolish. Tampa competes in the AL East with a measly payroll. When Crawford and others leave, they've got prospects to replenish their roster. Granted, it may be a year or two before those guys really start playing at a high level, but you can't buy a world series.
In the '90s when the Yanks were dominant, most of their roster was homegrown (Bernie Williams, Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Tito, Pettite, etc.) and only got expensive because those guy were great players.
The answer is building from within, and adding some FAs here and there to plug holes or add a certain dynamic to your club. Smart drafting, not frivolous spending, wins championships.

Anonymous said...

Matt you're %100 wrong, because look at the twins they draft well, but they are not ready to part with prospects to bring in top prized free agents like cliff lee, and when was the last time a team won the world series without spending money? its been a long time.
The days of going with a young team without great talent and winning the world series are long over. youre living in the 80's and fail to realize that times have changed, just look at recent history, give me an example of a team who has had october success without a great pitching staff and clutch hitters. you can not succeed in october without a true ace, look at all the teams still in the playoffs they all have top rotations not just an ace but a few aces on each team.
The phillies have halladay, oswalt, and hamels.
The yankees have sabathia and pettite and hughes who all have great playoff expereince except for hughes who basically shut out the twins and has been great in his short october career.
The rangers have lee and cj wilson.
The giants have lincecum, cain and sanchez.
You can try to fool yourself that you could compete without spending money but to actually WIN, is impossible to do without a top of the line pitching rotation and guys who have some swagger and can hit in the clutch.
The twins prove year after year that the issue is not competing and even winning the division its all about success in october and they have not done that successfully in the last 20 years.
And if they dont change their approach its not going to happen for the next 20 years either.
Sometimes you have to be realistic and think that the future is now, and to win you sometimes have to part with austin jackson like the yankees have done to bring in granderson (who by the way torched the twins in that short series, and who couldnt hit lefties all year but got it done in crunch time, when his team needed it most)
when was the last time the twins got a huge hit or a huge start from one of their pitchers IN the postseason to win a game? the answer is: 20 years ago when jack morris pitched for the twins.

Dave said...

Damn, these long rambly posts are getting annoying...

The Twins put out three solid pitchers. I'm sick of the arguments for Cliff Lee. Yes, it would have been nice. It would also be nice to have the five best pitchers in the league in a rotation. Nice doesn't mean essential or even a good idea long term. Liriano is an ace. Don't anybody try to tell me any different. Deunsing was pitching out of his mind at the end of the season, and was the second best AL starter in the playoffs. Better then the entire Yankees rotation.

Did we win? obviously not. Could we have? Deffinately. We put out a solid rotation with a solid lineup.

As far as Cuddy, I think he should take a restructured deal at about 6 mil for two years. He has to realize that he won't get more than 4 on the market for next year and if he gets injured that goes down to 0. I don't mind giving him another two years, just at 6 mil not 10. If not, well, let him earn his huge money and let him play for a new contract. Amazing things happen in contract years.

Anonymous said...

Yeah long posting anony, youre dumb. Last low pay roll team to win would be the marlins, the ray also made it to the world series. The argument that you need an ace to win in the playoffs is silly, good teams typically have capable pitchers and if the twins had won the world series this year everyone would be talking about aces francisco liriano and carl pavano, but we lost so those guys just couldnt handle it. The ace playoff requirement is soooo cliche. If the twins want to consistently beat the yankees they need to score runs. Hoping to beat the yankees 2-1 is a low percentage play because the yankees score a lot.

And the twins only draft ok. They are typically low budget and to say they have an elite farm system thats deep enough that trading about good prospects wont hurt it is false. The key to future twins success is going to be internal development and intelligent free agent signings, not panicked trades and over spending on free agents.

Laches said...

The whole 'Ace' thing is trendy after Cliff Lee's performance in the ALDS, but it's not all about that. Even in a short series, there's only so much one guy who plays at most every 4th game can do. The Twins didn't really have an Ace the last time they won a playoff series in 2002. Santana later developed into an Ace, but it didn't bring them past the ALDS. The Braves had staffs full of Aces in the 90's, yet they saw far more playoff failures than successes.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, I'm an Atlanta Braves fan who is intrigued by the Twins' depth of outfielders. The Braves pitching situation mirrors your OF situation. I feel like a deal could be struck. Along with all other good Americans I was rooting for you guys against the Yankees and in general (I don't know why, but I really dislike the rest of your division). In doing so I noticed that while your pitching staff top to bottom and front to back is solid that you really do need some upgrades in your rotation. Strikeouts are somewhat overrated, but they seem to have a close correlation to postseason success. And it seems to me that your organization as a whole undervalues strikeouts, much as the Braves organization did in the 90s(possible reason for so much postseason mediocrity). Atlanta desperately needs two of three things this offseason, one of them is a true elite defensive center fielder, a pure leadoff man with some speed and the ability to steal bases is another and finally either a first baseman or an outfielder who can give us a 275/30/100 type of season, preferably from the right side. Span, Kubel, Cuddyer, Young, Revere and Benson all fit these needs. I like Span the best of the bunch. Any thoughts on what direction the organization might be moving in? Who's the favorite to be dealt? Are you going to stand pat etc...?

Nick N. said...

Thanks for the interesting input, Braves fan.

You bring up an intriguing possibility. I'm not expecting the Twins to be active on the trade market this offseason but now that you mention it, a deal between the Twins and Braves would make a lot of sense. If anyone would take Cuddyer's salary off the Twins' hands, it's a possibility they'd be foolish not to look at. If they could get back an arm to bolster their shaky rotation, it's almost a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

I posted this same thing about Cuddyer over at Twinkie Town. Any interest in Coco Crisp for half the price of Cuddyer (in hindsight, if we would have not picked up the option on Cuddyer)? Crisp would improve the outfield defense, athleticism, and speed. Similar bat to Hudson from the two-hole.