If there's one thing that sticks in my mind from the past month of this '09 campaign, it was the amazing performance of Michael Cuddyer. After Justin Morneau went down for the season and Twins fans everywhere began to throw in the towel, Michael Cuddyer went on a torrid streak of baseball hitting .279/.338/.582, while jolting 10 home runs to accompany his 29 RBIs. Those are some impressive numbers over the course of a month, and he did it all while playing out of position on the infield (where, come to mention, he provided stellar defense as well).
Recently, there's been some speculation in the blogging world -- and I'm sorry, I can't find the link -- that the Twins could be looking to lock up Michael Cuddyer for a lifetime contract this offseason.
My immediate reaction is that this would be a great chance for the Twins to showcase a commitment to keeping some of their core players and building a championship team. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this should really be a priority?
Yes, I think I'd love you as a career Twins player, but is that for the best right now?
Michael Cuddyer is a great player, especially on a Twins team that's almost devoid of veteran leadership and power-hitting outfielders. But neither of those traits are particularly hard to find in free agency, and unless Cuddyer comes at a lower price, why should we commit such a large chunk of payroll to it? This, especially, in the season in which we are trying to resign ultimately the best player in baseball to one of the most lucrative and perhaps cash-strapping contracts in Twins history?
Is it because of Baseball Unplugged?
I'm still hoping to go sometime, so I'd kind of like you to stick around. (Thanks for the photo, Betsy.)
The Twins shouldn't be in any rush to sign him long term this offseason, especially considering that they'd be signing him after he just had the hottest month ever in his career. He's still under contract for this season, and the Twins will undoubtedly be able to afford his option for 2011 (10.5 million).
Cuddyer has been in the majors since '01, but he only started getting regular playing time since '04, where he primarily started in the infield to rather unsuccessful results. His first full year in RF he rocketed out of his mediocre numbers to post a solid .284/.362/.504 while belting 24 HRs and 109 RBIs in '06. After his monster year, he was rewarded with a big 3-year contract and an option for 2011.
He went on to post a decent, if unspectacular season in '07, and an awful season in '08 hampered by numerous injuries, before turning it on again this year (though to be realistic, those numbers were significantly helped by that September onslaught he produced).
Grrr, onslaught, grrr.
Let's be clear, I'm not advocating letting Cuddyer go. I just don't think resigning him right now is the priority when he's already inked. We can afford to wait and see how 2010 goes for him, how much money it takes to resign Mauer (which had better be Bill Smith's priority), and get ourselves a look at players like Rene Tosoni and Chris Parmelee, who don't seem to be too far away and both could profile as corner outfielders.
I would argue that the outfield is still one of the richest areas for the Twins right now. Denard Span is probably the third, maybe the fourth best hitter on our team (debating how he ranks compared to Kubel). Young and Gomez both represent substantial investments and are both still young and relatively cheap -- hence, their presence on this team does not impede money we need to resign Mauer and shore up our entire infield left of Morneau. Even Kubel is, when not a DH, a corner outfielder. This just isn't an area of pressing concern in my mind right now.
But again, his leadership and clubhouse presence is substantial, especially if Redmond is gone next year. Cuddyer WILL be around in 2010, and he will almost certainly be around in 2011 as well. Let's focus on some players of more urgency this offseason.
Feel free to discuss, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how hard we should go after resigning Cuddyer this offseason.