The New York Mets shook the baseball world Monday evening, signing free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two year contract worth a reported $21 million. This comes the day GM meetings opened in Arizona and the afternoon deadline to accept $15.3 million qualifying offers. Cuddyer, a former Silver Slugger and batting champion, hit over .330 the second straight season (albeit the small sample size) under the friendly confines of Coors Field. General Manager Sandy Alderson is counting on the soon to be 36 year old to produce at a similar rate in a lineup without Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez and in a stadium that has already been adjusted twice in its brief existence. Additionally, New York must now surrender its first pick for only the fourth time in club history (plus associated pool money) next June, with the Rockies awarded additional choices in the sandwich and second rounds.
The former Twin continues to have trouble staying on the field, averaging about 90 games since 2012 and playing over 130 games only five times in his eleven seasons as a regular. Praised for his leadership qualities, there’s no doubt Cuddy will fit in nicely in a clubhouse that already features childhood friend David Wright and all round good guy Curtis Granderson. “It wasn’t about the money,” he said Tuesday. “It was wanting to play east for this organization.” For the first time in a long time, a free agent has openingly stated his desire to come to Flushing without convincing or additional perks needed and acted upon it. While this is all dandy, is Michael Cuddyer really the hitter the Mets need? Considering Cuddyer was worth an underwhelming 1.8 WAR in his award winning 2013 campaign, I’d argue no. He weakens outfield defense and poses challenges in differentiating between certain historical statistics. Usually better facing left handed pitching, actually hit twenty points higher against righties while in Denver. Expect something along the lines of 280/350/800, an improvement from 2010.
Whenever a team tries to slot in midlevel prospects like Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo two years in advance, there are usually problems. When building playoff rosters, you keep the kids in mind but not so much that you punt on other opportunities because of their length. What happened here was a case of a franchise that simply refused to engage in any meaningful trade discussions, citing what was likely a few days of ineffective search as reason. You cannot possibly be one hundred percent serious if you say you’ve exercised all options ten days after the World Series because it’s practically impossible. A market takes time to develop in the same way you won’t get Black Friday prices in February. Jackets will cost more in the winter but shouldn’t necessarily preclude you from buying sweatshirts for the spring, or likewise, an undervalued player. If the Mets plan to be inactive the next few months solely because they added an additional fifteen/twenty homeruns, this is akin to writing a letter that goes with the present before even making such a purchase. In fact, signing a veteran so early adds to the case for giving up yet another draftee in order to get someone like Hanley Ramirez in the fold.
Many are also forgetting come April, Matt Harvey wouldn’t have pitched in fifteen months and likely faces the same road back as post Tommy John Adam Wainwright and his 3.94 ERA. The rest of the rotation is crowded and waiting to deal arms like Dillon Gee and Jon Niese may come back to haunt them. Payroll again looks to be an issue and a salary relief is coming eventually in the form of a Daniel Murphy type. Travis d’Arnaud seems primed to finally put it all together but can Duda regress and will the front office continue to stunt his growth by attempting to make him a glorified platoon player? There is no certainty in Flushing and while trending upward, pinpointing 2015 as the year seems like wishful thinking. Michael Cuddyer is not the missing puzzle you give up a potential piece for and selling him as if he were is irresponsible and misinformed. Adding quickly to the point, this regime is very comfortable and aware of the fact that they likely won’t be here in five years when questions about said risk will start to crop up and the decision is capable of being analyzed more properly. Emulating San Francisco takes more work than making minimal moves in an offseason and at the end of the day, the Mets seem to have prematurely quit on their search for a big bat well before Turkey Day. Meanwhile, pitching continues to stockpile, not to be used and stuck in Double-A like those guys you forget about in Baseball Mogul all because of the silly fear of Rafael Montero becoming a number three starter for somebody else.