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COLORADO ROCKIES
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Signed OF-R Michael Cuddyer to a three-year deal worth $31.5 million.  [12/16]

On Thursday, Ben Lindbergh wrote this about Minnesota’s Josh Willingham signing:

Meet the Twins’ new left fielder, almost the same as the Twins’ old right fielder. Willingham is eerily similar to Michael Cuddyer; both players are defensively-challenged corner outfielders and right-handed hitters who’ll turn 33 shortly before Opening Day. Cuddyer has the more winning smile, but it’s hard to quantify the effect of that on the kind of winning teams ultimately care about. Aside from the smiling, Willingham does everything Cuddyer does, but a little more. He walks a little more often, strikes out a little more often, and hits for a little more power. He doesn't play a little more than Cuddyer—he's averaged only 121 games over the past four seasons thanks to an array of nagging injuries—but like Rafael Furcal (see below), he makes more of the time he does spend on the field. That makes him both the better player and—since rumor had it the Twins were talking to Cuddyer about a $24 million package before deciding to make a change—the better deal, though his medical history might make Twins fans skittish after the team's injury-plagued 2011.

To Ben’s point, Willingham does have four more Wins Above Replacement Player than Cuddyer since 2009, yet it is Cuddyer receiving the more lucrative deal. That the Rockies offered Cuddyer this pact after seeing, 1) him lose a potential suitor, and 2) a superior player sign for cheaper is puzzling. Dan O’Dowd spent time before signing Cuddyer cleaning budget room by trading the likes of Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, and Huston Street, thus allowing him to splurge on Cuddyer.

The meat of Cuddyer’s value comes in his bat, defensive flexibility, and industrious attitude. Comparisons to Willingham aside, Cuddyer is a passable hitter. Cuddyer has managed a 117 adjusted-OPS over the past three seasons—good enough to rank 73rd amongst players with 500-plus plate appearances. Solid performances versus lefties (resulting in a .327 multi-year True Average) buoy Cuddyer’s offensive numbers, although he is about average when facing righties too. The problem with Cuddyer’s reputation is not his bat, which is fine—and will be made finer by Coors Field—but the defensive flexibility portion.

There is unquestioned value in having a player who can fill in at more skilled positions when necessary, and Cuddyer can fit that bill, but he has not been a super-utility man in the Ben Zobrist vein. In the last three campaigns, Cuddyer has spent fewer than 300 innings at second and third base. Meanwhile, Cuddyer’s time in the outfield and at first base eclipses the 3,500-inning mark, but finding a defensive metric that applauds Cuddyer’s efforts in the outfield is as easy as fitting an elephant into a bottle.

Ostensibly, the outfield is where Cuddyer fits into the Rockies’ plans. With Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler penciled in as the other starters, Cuddyer’s arrival all but ends any question as to whether Seth Smith will open the season with the Rockies—thus casting Tyler Colvin into a reserve spot as the left-handed hitting alternate. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that Colorado could opt to have Cuddyer play third base while top prospect Nolan Arenado plays in the upper minors, but the best guess right now is that Cuddyer will man the outfield. 

A scout told John Perrotto in June that, “[He] had a feeling [Cuddyer’s] going to cash in somewhere.” The same prescient scout praised Cuddyer’s pop, versatility, and clubhouse demeanor. The Rockies are known for valuing high-character players, and Cuddyer fits the mold. You just wonder if the Rockies had to pay this much to get their man.

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ColonelTom
12/16
Huge overpay for the Rockies. You have to be happy for Cuddyer, known as one of the game's good guys, getting one more big contract. If Cuddyer got 3/$31.5M, what is Beltran worth? 3/$45M or more?
jhardman
12/16
Maybe this explains why Minnesota didn't hold on to Cuddyer. He was getting ridiculously better offers.... As a Strat-O-Matic player, Cuddyer is fabulous. Not quite so in real life. But I'm thrilled to see a good guy get a big contract.
Scott44
12/16
Don't mind the $10 million part, but don't like the three year term. Unfortunately he was being offered three year deals, so the Rox, I guess did what they had to do. I would've preferred a two year deal, maybe for a bit more per year, say two years $23 million. Because Cuddyer, with his ability to play OF, 1B, 3B, and 2B (adequately) gives them a lot of flexibility and is pretty valuable in the short term. Especially if they don't want to rush Arenado, they can plug him in at 3B, or 2B once and awhile. Helton also needs to be rested frequently and is often injured so there is another reason it was a good move, at least for the next year, or possibly two.
ColonelTom
12/16
Adequately. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. :)
Scott44
12/17
Keep using it, what do you mean? I used it once.
cfinberg
12/17
It's a Princess Bride reference. It is inconceivable that you didn't get the joke!
Scott44
12/17
oh god.
Oleoay
12/17
That line wasn't in themovie... fail :)
thegeneral13
12/16
The Twins have consistently had one of the worst infields in baseball and yet Cuddyer has barely played any 2B or 3B for them. If it was at all possible for him to play a passable 2B or 3B on an even semi-regular basis the Twins would have tried it; if they couldn't stomach it, I don't think anyone will be able to. As an injury fill-in or as part of a late-inning double switch his ownership of an infielder's glove is worth something, but not much.
bobbygrace
12/16
As a Twins fan, I'll corroborate this and R.J.'s original piece: Michael Cuddyer is no great shakes in the field. That said, it's hard to imagine Ron Gardenhire putting a non-glove man (or at least a player who isn't expressly an infielder) up the middle. The fact that Cuddyer could hit might actually have diminished the odds that he'd ever appear at second base for the Twins. This is the team that shipped out J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson because we wanted "more speed up the middle." I'm half joking, but my point is that Cuddyer might have been a good enough hitter to have warranted a try over some of our second-sack options over the past decade. It's still true that Cuddyer is not a strong fielder. Two qualities help to compensate. First, he has a strong arm to help keep runners at bay. Second, he's willing and able to be a warm body anywhere on the diamond in a pinch -- he even pitched a scoreless inning (with two walks, IIRC) for the Twins last year. That's worth something, especially in a guy who can hit as he can.
thegeneral13
12/16
If I remember correctly, the Twins believed his defensive struggles at 2B hurt his offensive production, and cited this as a reason they wouldn't consider moving him back to 2B when there was a clear need. With a strong arm but limited range, he seemed like a better fit for 3B than 2B anyway, but perhaps he has a slow first step.
tombores99
12/17
... and it's probably a good idea to keep him out of harm's way, thus preserving his bat in the lineup, by avoiding those dangerous takeout slides at 2B.
Oleoay
12/17
For the record, why have Giambi on the roster if not to rest Helton?
Scott44
12/17
It's the NL, he's a valuable pinch hitter.
Oleoay
12/17
Giambi's generally had 20-30 games a year playing first. I think it would be a bit of a waste of Cuddyer's flexibility if he plays too much first base.
Oleoay
12/17
Cuddyer is the Rockies way of paying for Ty Wigginton 2.0 and Melvin Mora 3.0
mhmosher
12/18
Is anyone else wondering what the hell the Rockies are doing this winter? I can't make sense out of any of their moves.
Oleoay
12/18
Looks like wheel spinning. With all they've done, I don't think they've actually improved the team or their minor league system.