It’s been a busy week for Twins GM Bill Smith, what with outrighting Brian Buscher and trading Carlos Gomez for J.J. Hardy. Today, Smith added to the tally of moves by picking up Michael Cuddyer’s $10.5 million 2011 option. From what I’ve seen on the Star Tribune, Twins fans seem to be in favor on the move. ESPN’s Rob Neyer has a different view, arguing that Cuddyer is entering his declining years and is worth several million less per year than the Twins will be giving him in 2010 and 2011.
Call me a homer, but my vote is with the Twins on this one. It’s one thing to look at Cuddyer’s numbers and conclude that he’s being overpaid (which, at $10.5 million in the new baseball economy, is true). It’s quite another to argue that the Twins should have declined his option. There are several reasons why I think picking up the option was important:
- Cuddyer may be replaceable on paper, but how many right fielders could make a pretty seamless transition to replace an All-Star caliber first baseman while improving at the plate? Additionally, while there may be some players available on the market who would be cheaper and produce at the same level, there’s no guarantee that they would sign with the Twins. Cuddyer was in the fold already, and the Twins could guarantee (barring injuries of course) that they could put him in uniform and get him on the field. They can’t do that with a player targeted in free agency.
- Some fella named Joe Mauer might not have taken very kindly to the perceived dismantling of the core group of Twins players. Of course, this was an option for 2011, not 2010, so it wouldn’t be a straight-up dismantling. Demonstrating loyalty, however, would seem to be a good idea right now. This was a good way to show Mauer that the Twins aren’t going to nickle-and-dime players going forward.
- The fact that Cuddyer would still be on the payroll in 2010 also probably played a role in this decision. Cuddyer said that he wouldn’t let the decision affect his play in 2010, but how could he guarantee that? I know if I were in his shoes I would’ve been upset to have an option declined and have to continue working for my employer. There’s something inherently unfriendly (intended or not) in declining an option. Such a move could possibly have motivated Cuddyer to play better in 2010, since he’d be in a free agent year — but to me it’s better to keep Cuddyer happy and keep relations friendly. Oh yeah — the Twins need to avoid putting themselves in this position by agreeing to options that need to be picked up or bought out a year in advance.
I genuinely like this move overall, and I’m hopeful that a healthy Cuddyer will continue to produce like he did this year. If Mauer, Morneau, and Cuddyer can all get on the same page while getting occasional help from guys like J.J. Hardy and Delmon Young, the Twins could have the makings of a very nice 2010 offense for the new ballpark. So far, I’m pretty happy with Bill Smith’s off-season. I’m excited to see what he’ll do with the starting rotation and third base.