Before we go any further let’s be clear, I like the Michael Cuddyer signing. Some of you may raise an eyebrow because I recently wrote a piece about the correlation between spending, value and performance, however, we need to consider this particular signing in the context of the 2015 Mets.
I’ve been following Cuddyer since he came up with the Twins. He’s always been one of these more than the sum of his parts type guys. He struck me initially as being very well coached and his approach at the plate was refined. He was another in a long line of young productive players churned out by an outstanding Twins player development program.
He was sort of a third baseman back then but he ended up splitting his time all over the place — 3B, 2B, 1B, OF and DH. Over the course of his career, he has spent the most time in the outfield where he sports a .986 fielding percentage. He also has a -15.6 defensive WAR, not the greatest. He seems to get decent jumps and he can handle what he gets to but his range is an issue. Over the past five seasons Cuddyer is next to last in UZR for right fielders.
You also have to factor in the value of the number 15 pick in next year’s draft which is probably somewhere between 10 and 15 million. That pushes the real cost of the Cuddyer contract north of $30 million (a conservative estimate). Cuddy will be 36 before opening day and he only played 49 games last year … there’s that as well. Wait, did I say I liked the Cuddyer signing? I did didn’t I … hmm.
The thing about Cuddyer is he always seems to be in the middle of things offensively. He has a lifetime .813 OPS, a .347 OBP and a 114 OPS+.
He also has six seasons of 235 or more total bases and five years of 80 or more RBI. Those are some pretty decent figures folks, so there is definitely an argument for this guy … but wait, there’s more.
Since signing Cuddyer, there’s been a lot of talk about park factors and home/away splits, well, consider that from 2005 to 2011, Cuddyer batted .292 at home (at the Metrodome mind you, which most consider a pitcher’s park in it’s later years) and .250 on the road before he arrived to Coors. He has always performed much better at home, and lets face it, couldn’t the Mets use someone like that?
Not counting 2014, Cuddyer averaged 32 doubles a season from 2009 to 2013 — that’s five straight seasons of 30+ doubles (three of them in Minnesota). Since the beginning of 2013 he also has a wRC+ of 142. He’s got 1,366 hits over his last 10 seasons, and 732 hits over that same recent five year stretch.
He’s getting better as he gets older. You may scoff and point out he spent two thirds of his season on the DL last year, but lets look at the one third he did play. In 49 games he had 63 hits, 32 runs, 15 doubles, 10 home runs, a .579 SLG, and a .955 OPS. Extrapolated over a whole season those are MVP numbers. He’s the kind of player that can carry a team. During one game last September, he had a three hit, one homer, two double, seven RBI game.
If you ask me, there is no argument … Cuddyer is in the midst of a phenomenal six year stretch and over the past year and a half he has been putting up MVP numbers. It reminds me a little of Chipper Jones the way he seemed to get better and better as he got older, eventually wearing down from injuries that in no way seemed to impact his hyper-refined ability to hit. When he played, he was incredibly dangerous.
Most would say we overpaid for Cuddy, especially if you look at his career stats and tack on any kind of dollar value to the draft pick … but when you look at his last six seasons it’s not quite the overpay you’d think. Cuddyer right now (and by right now I mean as recently as last September) is playing at an extremely high level. He’s one of these guys whose intellect and experience appear to be enhancing his approach and making him remarkably productive in spite of his age
If, and it is a HUGE, tremendous, gargantuan if, he can stay on the field. Is it worth the risk? No doubt about it. We have a shot in 2015 if we can muster even a minimal uptick in offense … If Cuddyer can keep himself relatively healthy he will almost single-handedly give us that.
Oh, one other thing, Cuddy has a .338 batting average over the course of six series in the playoffs, including a .348 batting average in the ALCS.