Friday, October 07, 2011

What's Cuddyer Worth?

The Twins have three long-time staples hitting the free agent market this offseason, making it the biggest organizational crossroad since 2007, when the contracts of Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva expired.

The team had to let both those players go, while also trading Johan Santana, because in all three cases the contract demands were exorbitant. That's how it tends to go when 29 other teams are in the negotiating mix. With Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan all set to shop themselves this winter, some tough decisions lie ahead for the brain trust at Target Field.

Unlike 2007, the Twins are equipped financially to bring back all three players, although doing so might consume the bulk of their spending money. With a daunting variety of areas to address, as I outlined on Wednesday, it seems unlikely that all three players will be retained. I suspect that one or even two of these familiar faces will land elsewhere.

Of the three, Kubel is probably most expendable. Losing his reliable righty-mashing ability would sting, but the Twins -- ideally -- already have two middle-of-the-lineup left-handed bats on the roster and he's coming off a pair of underwhelming seasons. On the flip side, his injury hampered season might keep him affordable.

Nathan would be tougher to lose. The Twins are bereft of quality right-handed relief arms, and Matt Capps almost certainly won't be back. The team will clearly decline Nathan's $12.5 million option for next year but might be able to get him back on a two-year deal at the same price. If not, there will be quite a few alternatives on the market.

Cuddyer is the guy that the Twins really don't want to let get away. He's generally considered the clubhouse leader and is cherished by coaches, teammates and fans alike. He's the team's best outfield power bat, and his ability to play first has been invaluable with Justin Morneau's ongoing injury issues. If you remove Cuddyer from the roster, the best remaining right-handed bat might be… Danny Valencia? Trevor Plouffe? Not good.

Unfortunately, of the three players discussed here Cuddyer has the most leverage entering this offseason. He's coming off a very solid campaign in which he posted an .805 OPS with 20 home runs while making his first All-Star team. He might just be the second-best right-handed bat on the market behind Albert Pujols.

The Twins reportedly offered Cuddyer a two-year, $16 million extension during the season, but they had to know that wouldn't come close to getting it done. Given his high rank within the free agent class and his sterling reputation, Cuddyer should be able to get three or even four years at an average of $10 million or more.

At that point, the Twins need to look past their affinity for him and honestly assess how they think his game will age. Locking into a contract that assures a potentially declining 36-year-old big money down the line is not a situation the Twins need to get themselves into.

My guess? The Twins' best offer will be a three-year deal, at maybe a little over $30 million, with a team option for 2015. If Cuddyer won't budge on a guaranteed fourth year, I'd guess he'll be playing for another team next season.


Ed Bast said...

It's pretty much a guarantee that Cuddy will not be able to play up to whatever contract he'll get.

On an unrelated note, did anyone else take notice of the historic event that took place last night? The Tigers miraculously beat the Yankees in the ALDS. The YANKEES! Have you seen their payroll? It's beyond belief! On paper they're so much "better" than Detroit! And the payroll!Upset of the century for sure!

Seriously, it's amazing what can happen when your team is prepared to play, believes they can win, and doesn't give up when facing adversity (getting smoked in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, for example).

For the record, the Yankees have won as many playoff series against non-Twins teams during Gardy's tenure (3) as the mid-market Rangers have the past 2 seasons.

Matt said...

They also beat the Yanks and advanced to the WS the year the Twins were swept by the A's.

We've got another Mauer situation here. The majority of fans will revolt at the notion of losing Cuddy, yet they'll piss and moan when he doesn't return the value of his contract. He should have been traded this summer...

Steve L. said...

Agree that trading Cuddy this summer would have probably been a good idea. Instead of "selling low" like they seem to do with everyone else (Attaboy Delmon!), he might have actually been a "sell high" guy.

I've hated Cuddy's contract since he signed it, thought it was way too much money (you can find several OF's who have similar production, are better in the outfield, and are younger, who have far cheaper contracts. Ben Zobrist is one example). Giving him a new contract for around the same amount (which Nick is suggesting), would be an even worse contract than his old one as he's older and will likely be on the decline.

Ya, I'm sure most would like to see Cuddy stick around (including me), but at $10MIL/year or more, I don't see that as a smart business decision given the Twins current circumstances. I've thought Cuddy's contract was the one that hurt the Twins the most financially (relative to his production) as far as their ability to go after free agents, this would be more of the same which the Twins don't need.

Josh said...

Yeah, I'm struggling to see paying Cuddyer $10M a year over 3 as being a wise investment for the Twins. Year one he'd be a little overpaid, year 2 he'd probably be significantly overpaid, year 3 it could be getting ugly. But I think Nick's right, someone will offer Cuddyer a 4 year deal, which would really be a bad call, I'm afraid.

Cuddy had his best year in the Majors this season, by WAR. It was one of his best offensive seasons and defensive seasons. I'm having trouble seeing the D continue at this pace, especially if he's playing back in the OF. The hitting MIGHT be sustainable for a few seasons, but I think we've seen the ceiling.

I suspect the Twins will be willing to go to 3/$30M. But I think Cuddyer will go when someone offers him 4/$42.

Mike said...

I really doubt Cuddyer comes back to the Twins next season. I like the guy a lot, but I don't think the Twins can or should offer him more than what he's currently making ($10.5 mm/year). I wouldn't mind a four year offer, but ideally, they'd stick to three.

It seems much more likely that he'll get a substantially better offer elsewhere and will head out of town.

I guess I'll be surprised if Nathan doesn't come back. I'm not sure what kind of offers he'll receive this offseason, given his overall mediocre numbers (brought down in large part to struggles at the beginning of the season), age, and having just had TJ in 2010. He should be affordable. Although, he may not come back if he decides the Twins aren't putting together a competitive team. Their other offseason moves may be very telling in whether or not they retain Nathan.

I'd like to see Kubel back. His injuries were frustrating this year, but you can say that about almost everyone on the 2010 team. He still provides some power and can play in the outfield if necessary. He's not a great fielder, but if the Twins don't re-sign Cuddyer, they may be in a tough spot for power hitters playing traditional power positions.

Anyway, long story short is that it would be great to bring Cuddyer back, but as Nick pointed out in the last blog post, the Twins have a lot of holes to fill this offseason. It wouldn't be worth re-signing Cuddyer if they can't fix other more pressing matters due to the amount of money they'll have to pay him.

George said...

I'd like to see Nathan and Cuddyer back at a reasonable price. Not sure if that's possible with Cuddyer though. I too think $10M per year is too much for him.

As for Kubel, I was under the impression that he wanted out of Target Field, so I guess I wouldn't expect him back.

I guess with the current state of the Twins, it wouldn't bother me too much if all three left via FA. It's not like any of them would be a great attraction for the fans. I'd rather see the team suck with rookies than vets in the twilight of their careers.

And how about Delmon Young for the Tigers? Where were those homers against the Yankees last year???

T said...

The sad thing about Cuddyer is that the Twins are in almost an identical no-win spot in the eyes of the greater fandom (or at least the more venomously vocal one) that they found themselves with Mauer.

If they let him walk, the Pohlads will again be labeled as cheapskates with no intent of actually building a good team (this reaction of course will live or die based on Cuddy's production with his new team if not the team's overall success)

If they retain him, they'll obviously have to pay above what they'd be "comfortable" paying, leading him to become a lesser Mauer and any decrease in production from 2011 (or again overall performance of the team) in 2012 would immediately leave him the victim of the same vitriol that Mauer found himself dealing with this season.

Of the three, Cuddy's my highest priority to keep...especially with Mauer/Morneau being question marks coming off injury riddled seasons.

Kubel is less important if the thought is that Morneau is going to start being converted into a full time DH.

After that, the focus should be on locking down either a quality starting 2B or SS (letting the rest of the MIF players fight over the remaining spot) and looking at a more reliable backup catcher.

I would look at 2012 as a transitional season trying to bounce back from '11 while looking at 2013 as the next big push. With that said, I can live with going into the season with an OF of Revere/Span/Plouffe.

On the bench? Why not give Parmelee and Benson a go? Then you've got Morneau as the DH, Cuddyer at 1B, Mauer C, Valencia 3B, and who knows what at 2B.

Anonymous said...

"Seriously, it's amazing what can happen when your team is prepared to play, believes they can win, and doesn't give up when facing adversity..."

I always laugh heartily at people who cry "The Twins can't beat the Yankees because they don't believe..." argument.

Considering that the last two years the Twins been making playoff runs the only thing the "fans" and media would talk about was "Why does it matter they'll just lose to the Yankees".

Maybe if the fans didn't act like a bunch of Chicken Littles it would help energize the team hmmm?

Anonymous said...

I think the Twins will try to re-sign Cuddyer and try hard. That’s unfortunate, I do wish at times that they didn’t have money as not having cash actually helps NOT to sign guys like Tori Hunter or Michael Cuddyer. They helped themselves by having to look for affordable options that can do the same job for a lot less money. They do need to take a harder look at Sabermetics. Let’s look at Cuddyer –
2008 WAR 0.0 OPS 699
2009 WAR 2.8 OPS 862
2010 WAR .8 OPS 753
2011 WAR 3.1 OPS 805
I add OPS because Nick seems to like this stat. Not a fan myself as it rates slugging way to highly over OBP. In any case Nick promotes Cuddyer’s OPS as good which in reality it is mediocre for a RF. In 2011 Michael Cuddyer ties for 14th spot with Jeff Francoeur for RF OPS. JEFF FRANCOEUR! 13 guys just in RF were better than him. Let’s add that Michael Cuddyer can’t field. His lifetime UZR in RF shows his has cost runs not prevented them for the Twins. So we have about the 12th or 13th best RF in the game who is 30+ years old and can’t really play defense and we need to give him a Raul Ibanez 3 year 30 million dollar deal? Some team might give him 4 years!? I can only hope some team does. Michael Cuddyer is a great guy but the Twins can replace the position for cheap and use that money to sign somebody who actual can add value for the amount of money you want to spend. Everybody is right in that he won’t live up to that kind of contract but more importantly he won’t live up to it even in the 1st year of it.

Anonymous said...

As for the Tigers beating the Yanks I do agree the Twins can take something from that. The Twins have problems against the Yanks cause they can hit and hit very well, especially in their park. The Twins have fly ball pitchers that don’t throw hard. The Tigers have some hard throwing guys on their team that caused the Yanks issue. That’s a solid factor and why they have beat them and the Twins have not. However, the biggest factor is luck. The Tigers would have lost this series if they didn’t have Delmon Young. DELMON FRICKING YOUNG! Obviously a former Twin. So, the Tigers won this series because they got a Twin on their roster who is actually a very poor player but got lucky and hit 3 or so jacks in the series. The Twins in every series had a chance against the Yanks. The Twins had a good team in 09 and a real good team in 10. Either of those teams could have beat the Yanks in a 5 game series but they were unlucky overall.

Anonymous said...

I think when considering Cuddyer, Kubel, and Nathan, you have to determine if you are trying to compete in 2012 or not. I say go for it now because you have a very special player in Mauer and you have to assume he will come back healthy and play "true to form" in 2012. If you agree with that, then you have to consider how you will replace Cuddyer and Kubel and their 20-30 hrs and 100 rbi's each year. Yes, they will have to overpay for each, but if you are trying to win, that is what you have to do. You can't count on Morneau in the future and you are not going to win with rookies. You have to have veterans to win in the playoffs. Letting Cuddyer and Kubel walk makes sense if you're going to blow the roster up and start over. I don't agree with that because that is a 2-4 year project at best and you lose Mauers prime years. Lets face it, this franchise is built around Mauer in the near and long term future, so they should embrace that and go for it. Add a SS and FA SP of quality, trade Valencia and one of their CF for more pitching and/or a low cost position player or two. Its not like the AL Central is a loaded division that they can't compete in. Once you get to teh playoffs, anything can happen.


Ed Bast said...

"I always laugh heartily at people who cry "The Twins can't beat the Yankees because they don't believe..." argument."

Watch a replay of Game 3 last year, and tell me that team believed they could win the series.

"However, the biggest factor is luck."

Oh my God. Here we go again. So every single playoff series ever played just comes down to luck? What was lucky about Detroit's victory over the Yanks this year? It's "lucky" that a team's #3 hitter (and late season trade acquisition) hits 3 HRs in 5 games? Is it "lucky" that the Tigers Game 5 pitcher was a trade-deadline pickup? Is it "unlucky" that the Twins had to send out Brian Duensing against the Yanks 2 years in a row? Was it "unlucky" for the Twins to get the benefit of a botched call in Game 1, only to fail to capitalize on it?

I could go on and on and on. There was zero luck involved with the Tigers win this year or each of the Twins' losses the last 2 years, or at least zero more than is naturally part of the game. It's the worst excuse possible.

Chad Martin said...

What the hell, I'll throw my undereducated opinion in here.

Morneau will never play first again. Diving for a ball brings the concussion symptoms back? He's done on the field. Let's be optimistic and say he's our DH. Then we have to find a spot for Kubel. I say put him in RF and let Cuddy walk. He'll be cheaper for similar production. Yes, we're relying on Valencia to provide right-handed pop, but my gut says that he's going to continue to improve. Put Span in LF and Revere in CF. Rotate Mauer and Parmelee at first, Mauer and some FA at catcher, and do your best at patching up the middle infield. We just need to keep Nathan with our haggard bullpen, plus his value should be down this off season.

One of the last things I'd like to see is trading Valencia. It's so nice to see a laser shot to first from third as compared to our recent third basemen. He's young, cheap, and has the potential to improve.

If we had only traded Cuddy for a serviceable backup catcher and relief pitcher at the deadline. That would make this all much less difficult.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is lucky Ed that Delmon Young who had 4 HRs through 4 and a half months with the Twins hit 3 in 5 games against a solid Yankee pitching staff. VERY LUCKY! Luck is a huge part of the game of baseball. Once you make the playoffs luck plays a HUGE role in games. 162 games is a great indicator of determing the best teams and the playoffs just comes down to who is playing the best ball at the time because all 8 teams are usually very good. The Twins in 2010 as hard as you want to disbelieve were a VERY good team and won 96 games. They had a good chance to the beat the Yanks. The Tigers beat the Yanks in a super close 5 game series because Delmon Young won 2 games himself with HRs. In 5 game series things like that happen.

Ed Bast said...

So a 7th inning solo shot in game 3 and a 1st inning solo shot game 1 - not even the game winning RBI - were the sole reason the Tigers won? And if so, each was purely a product of luck - excellent pitches where Delmon Young closed his eyes and miraculously hit home runs? This is so absurd it's difficult to type, even if to paraphrase.

Was it luck that the Tigers sought to improve their lineup and acquired Delmon in the first place? Was it luck that the Yankees pitching staff was so lackluster that they had someone called Ivan Nova starting in an elimination game?

Anonymous said...

Cuddy has been a good player, but not great. His production has not been worth 10 mil. I hope he gets all he can just not from the Twins.

Marshall Garvey (MarshalltheIrish) said...

First, Ed has said it often and I agree: Please put the luck excuse to rest for good. Of the many lame excuses for the Twins' failures in the playoffs (and there are MANY), this has got to be the lamest. It's true you have to have plenty of good fortune to survive a 162-game season and survive the October crapshoot to be the best team in baseball, but it's not like the teams that win do so because they have some otherworldly guidance. The Tigers did just enough to capitalize against the Yankees, chiefly with timely power hitting and clutch pitching, which our Twins need much, much more of as opposed to trusting players like Brian Duensing to carry a series.

As for the contract issues at hand, I don't have much to add that hasn't already been covered. They have to retain either Cuddyer or Kubel, as both provide a level of production the Twins will need to build on. It's a toss-up, I think: Kubel's a power hitter who's entering his prime, while Cuddyer's a versatile and productive player and a great franchise guy. I think I'll take Cuddyer and Nathan at reasonable deals, and let Kubel walk. The Kube's 2-29 postseason "performance" is also a deciding factor for me.

Harmon said...

From ESPN: "Young is a key cog in the middle of the Tigers' lineup. He hit .316 (6-of-19) in the ALDS against the Yankees with three home runs. After being traded from Minnesota during the season, he hit .274 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 40 games"

I have always thought Delmon got a bad rap playing for Gardy, who seems to play favorites with certain players. He loved little Nicky, but hit DY 7th. He hit 3rd for the Tigers and played much better. DY was a first overall pick and is going to show that the Twins misused him.

Gardy has lost it

Harmon said...

From ESPN: "Young is a key cog in the middle of the Tigers' lineup. He hit .316 (6-of-19) in the ALDS against the Yankees with three home runs. After being traded from Minnesota during the season, he hit .274 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 40 games"

I have always thought Delmon got a bad rap playing for Gardy, who seems to play favorites with certain players. He loved little Nicky, but hit DY 7th. He hit 3rd for the Tigers and played much better. DY was a first overall pick and is going to show that the Twins misused him.

Gardy has lost it

Anonymous said...

Why is there no talk about Gardy in all of this? I agree with the previous comment about it not being luck -- well, there is a luck factor for sure -- but it's attitude. The Twins just have this "awe shucks, Yankee Stadium is beautiful" thing going on, and it is awful to watch.

Great they won the division and went to the playoffs for a few years -- for the front office and most fans that's actually probably enough. But for the hardcores, it has gotten old. Would love to see Francona in the Twins dugout and get some attitude in the clubhouse.

Laches said...

While a lot of people are asking "why can't the Twins play like that against the Yankees", I've been asking "why can't the Yankees play like that against the Twins?". I couldn't believe how many opportunities they blew in game 5. And no, it wasn't all Detroit making them look bad. There were a number of destroyable pitches left up that the Bombers did nothing with. The Yankees always seem to make the Twins pay dearly for every mistake they make, but they didn't do that to the Tigers when they needed to.

Laches said...

As frustrating and disappointing as the Twins postseason futility has been, it's just silly to deny that luck is a part of it. Injuries are the result of bad luck. The Twins played their last 2 postseasons without their top run producer. The Yankees were fully healthy. Many of the games were close. Suppose Morneau had been playing while Tex or A-Rod or Cano had to sit, the results may have been different. Conversely, let's not forget that in '87, the Cardinals were short-handed, most notably with their top run producer, Jack Clark on the shelf. How certain are you that the end result would have been the same if Clark had been able to play, but Hrbek had not?

Matt said...

[i]He loved little Nicky, but hit DY 7th. He hit 3rd for the Tigers and played much better.[/i]
Delmon was given a chance to bat third in 2010 and didn't do as well as when he was batting 7th. Delmon was given EVERY chance to play every day in a Twins uniform and what return did they get? A mostly overweight, lazy looking guy who hacked at everything thrown his way.

Plus, when you have Miguel Cabrera hitting behind you, an absolute BEAST, you're going to get pitches to hit.

Big Dawg said...


You are right, Young got to play everyday for the Twins. From day one Gardy didn't show confidence in Young. I can only imagine a all healthy Span, Mauer, Young, Morneau, Cuddy, Kubel, Hardy, Cabrera, Valencia could have done on a daily basis.

Birdman said...

Hey, off topic. Anyone know a good place to hunt pheasants in So Minn?

Got a cuz who wants her hubby to shoot a bird or two this year.

Kelly said...

Look, I love my Twins, but Gardy plays favorites and only knows one way to manage.

Don Shula was a coach ( I know, NFL) who used his players to their strengths. Csonka era, run the ball. Marino era, throw it allatime.

If you have power hitters, stop trying to make em into little Nickis. Imagine what Big Papi woulda done in the Dome if he had stayed.

Gardy, get a clue... and lose some weight. Fat body means lazy thinking

Chad Martin said...

Injuries are the result of bad luck.

Or a subpar training staff, which I'm starting to suspect is the case with the Twins.

Anonymous said...

" (you can find several OF's who have similar production, are better in the outfield, and are younger, who have far cheaper contracts. Ben Zobrist is one example). "

This was in reference to Cuddyer.

1. First you have to assume they are available.
2. Next, you have to assume they are willing to play in Minny.
3. You have to assume there is no other team bidding for their services.
4. You have to be able to predict the future when it comes to young players.
5. Are the Twins willing to give up a draft pick for a "maybe the OF of the future" that may not pan out?
6. You have to assume the player will fit into a clubhouse. (Look what happened to the BoSox this year)
7. Last, you have to assume Bill Smith is an idiot and will screw up any possible deal that would be advantageous to the Twins.