Of course they did.
Of course, the New York Mets went and signed Michael Cuddyer.
He’s 36-years-old, a fourteen-year veteran, a designated hitter in the American League and a player who should now be a strictly a first baseman in the National League. He’s a power hitter who only once hit more than 30 home runs.
This move is so nonsensical that it sent shock waves through social media since his signing. In fact, social media, as we know it, was not even in its infancy when Cuddyer was signed to his first professional contract, nearly two decades ago. But, in an attempt to bring some sort of clarity to an otherwise indefensible move, we break down everything involving the head-scratching signing.
Cuddyer is a career .279 hitter. Playing most of his career with the Minnesota Twins, he spent the last three seasons in the thin air of Colorado for the Rockies. In his second season in Colorado, Cuddyer led the National League with a robust .331 batting average. The next year was actually an improvement, as he nudged his average up one more point to .332. The problem? He did it by playing only 49 games. All season.
Any hitter who plays an extended period of time in Colorado is usually viewed through tinted lenses, as the stadium has historically been known to support offense. In his first twelve seasons in the Major Leagues, Cuddyer never batter over .284. In his last 179 games, all as a member of the Rockies, his average exploded to .331. Does anyone think that this is actually sustainable?
Even with the ballpark playing to his strengths, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound slugger should have certainly seen his power numbers increase. But, what power numbers? As mentioned earlier, Cuddyer only smacked more than 30 home runs once in his career — 2009. His next highest total? 24 in ’06, the only time he drove in more than 100 runs in his career. If Cuddyer wasn’t launching fly balls over the walls in Coors Field, what makes anyone think he can push it over the notoriously deep fences in Citi Field, even after they have been adjusted?
There is truly nothing spectacular that Michael Cuddyer brings to the table and his signing has all the makings of a surefire bust. In order to justify what the Mets paid for Cuddyer – 2 years, $21 million – he will have to fill voids the team has had for years at first base and in the middle of the lineup. But anything less than twenty home runs and eighty runs batted in while be a major disappointment, and even that may not be enough to justify the price.
The price, however, has still not even been fully laid out. In addition to the money and two-year commitment the Mets just threw at Cuddyer, they also must indirectly give the Colorado Rockies their first round pick in the 2015 MLB draft – the Mets pick is technically forfeited and the Rockies receive a compensatory pick in exchange.
That’s right, the Mets felt that Cuddyer was worth two-years, $21 million, and the 15th overall pick in the draft. What once looked like a ridiculous move by Colorado to offer Cuddyer a qualifying contract – he was listed as the only player likely to accept the deal in our article breaking down said free agents – has since been trumped by the Mets making the Rockies look like geniuses.
If there is one silver lining to the Cuddyer deal for New York, it is that the Mets made two statements with the signing. The first is obvious — the team needs immediate help in their lineup and has been highly criticized for not spending money, so the deal counters that argument. The second is much more subtle — the Mets have now forfeited their first round draft pick, and any subsequent player with a qualifying offer would cost the team a later round pick.
Last year, the Mets were ridiculed for not signing shortstop free agent Stephen Drew, despite their need at the position. Drew was one of many players hurt by a qualifying offer, and the perception was that his contract demands with the additional forfeited pick was too steep of a price. Now that the Mets have broken down that barrier, they might actually hold an edge in free agent bidding this offseason, as they should proceed with less inhibitions than other teams.
Even with the minute possibility of a positive impact on other potential signings this offseason, the acquisition of Michael Cuddyer looks like a future disaster from all angles.
Maybe time will prove otherwise. Maybe Cuddyer will continue to define all odds. But maybe it was a blessing in disguise that the Mets have refused to spend money in recent offseasons.
Sometimes, it’s better to spend no money than bad money.
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