If this weekend’s rumor mill is to be believed, the Philadelphia Phillies really want to sign Michael Cuddyer. MLBTradeRumors.com reports that Philadelphia is dead-set on acquiring the longest tenured Twin. And recent signee Jim Thome may be the the team’s best salesman.
Cuddyer to Philadelphia does seem to make a lot of sense. At age 32, Cuddyer isn’t getting any younger, and he’s at the point in his career where many succesful players realize their chances to win a World Series are eventually going to run out. Philadelphia is a guaranteed contender, thanks to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and company. If a championship ring is his top priority, he could do a lot worse than Philadelphia. What’s more, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park is a known hitters’ paradise. If Cuddyer does sign with the Phils, he could put up some big numbers there. On Philadelphia’s side, Cuddyer would be a great replacement for Jayson Werth, another right-handed hitting outfielder with power. Werth left for the Washington Nationals last offseason, probably part of the reason the Phillies’ offense scored 59 fewer runs this year.
With a respected former teammate, the promise of big stats and rings, and a wealthy team willing to write a big check, it looks pretty doubtful that the Twins will be able to re-sign Cuddyer. At the very least, it sounds like they’d have to make a huge offer in order to keep him. Since Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan may also leave, it’s hard to imagine the Twins digging too deep into their pockets to bring Cuddyer back, regardless of how popular he is in the clubhouse and in the community.
Twins Territory would be sad to see Cuddyer go, but allowing him to leave could be a blessing in disguise. Most notably, the team would gain two very high draft picks if Cuddyer signs with Philadelphia. The Phillies would cede their #31 overall pick to the Twins, and the Twins would also gain a supplemental round pick somewhere in the top 50. If Cuddyer left early in the free agency season, it would also eliminate some of the pressure on the Twins to set aside money for him, thus allowing them to go after a talented starting pitcher and/or a shortstop.
Who would replace Cuddyer? Short term, the answer is nobody. There is nobody on the Twins who can match his right-handed power or his versatility. And there is no comparable righty outfielder on the free agent market, which might be part of the reason the Phillies are going after Cuddyer so fervently. The Twins might try a little harder to retain Jason Kubel as their everyday right fielder. Or they could try to rush Joe Benson to the Majors, though Benson probably needs at least a half season at AAA before he is ready for MLB. Or they could try to sign a stopgap outfielder like David DeJesus or Coco Crisp. Neither player would replace Cuddyer’s production, but they’d be considerably less expensive.
Long term, though, the Twins have many options in the outfield. Oswaldo Arcia, Eddie Rosario, and Aaron Hicks should all be ready to break into the Majors within the next two to three years. If the Twins are rebuilding, it would certainly make sense to let Cuddyer go and groom one of these players to be the right fielder of the future.
If Cuddyer joins the Phillies, I’m sure nearly every Twins fan will miss him. He has always been a dependable player and a likeable voice for the team. I’m sure a lot of us will be cheering on the Phillies next October so that Thome and Cuddyer can both win a championship. Hopefully, this move would benefit the Twins as well.