Twins Pick Up Cuddyer’s Option

Over the weekend, the Minnesota Twins picked up their 10.5 million dollar option on RF Michael Cuddyer to keep him through 2010. Cuddyer has been a member of all five of the Twins playoff teams from the first decade of the millenium.

EDIT: Cuddyer’s option was for 2011. I regret the mistake, but the assumptions in this article still hold. 10.5M is too much to commit to Cuddyer.

Still, the Twins are the epitome of the small market team. 10.5 million dollars is certainly not an insignificant amount for them. The Twins have never broken a 75 million dollar payroll, and their average payroll since 2007 is approximately $65 million. It’s hard to say where the Twins payroll will be next year. They can expect an influx of revenue due to the opening of Target Field, but given current economic times, a significant increase in team salary is unlikely.

A liberal estimate of the Twins 2011 payroll of $70 million leaves Cuddyer as 15% of their payroll. Cuddyer’s offensive performance in 2009 was among the best of his career. His .370 wOBA tied his previous career high from 2006, and his 32 HRs marked a career high. He was worth 4.2 wins above replacement from a purely offensive standpoint last year.

Of course, we don’t measure value without including defense, and that’s where Cuddyer’s value sinks. Cuddyer has bounced between positions in his career, but since 2006 nearly all of his innings have come in RF. Familiarity has not improved Cuddyer’s skills in the field, as he has never put up a positive UZR in RF, bottoming out at 17 runs below average this year. With a -10 UZR/150 in RF, Cuddyer’s defensive contributions roughly equal those of a DH, and with his age 31 season coming up, it’s not likely that we’ll see improvements anytime soon.

As his career numbers suggest, Cuddyer’s probably not quite as bad in RF as he was this year, but he ‘s also probably not quite as good a hitter either. His ISO ballooned to .245 this year after two straight years under .200, mostly thanks to a ridiculous 17.1% HR/FB ratio. Going forward, his career wOBA of .346 is a much better estimate than his .370 wOBA from 2009. A .346 wOBA, over 600 PAs, is only worth roughly 8 runs above average. With the defensive contributions of a DH, that comes out to roughly 8 runs above replacement, or 0.8 WAR.

It’s very hard for a team to compete when paying a starting player 10.5 million dollars to contribute less than 1 win. It’s even harder for a team in the economic condition that the Twins are. This move seems more like an appeal to the fans rather than an attempt to build a winning team. The better way to appease your fans, however, is to win baseball games. Cuddyer is a slightly above average hitter who is a complete defensive non-factor. He helped the Twins win games as a cost-controlled young player, but the money he will make can help the team much more than he can. The Twins needed to let him go.




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42 Responses to “Twins Pick Up Cuddyer’s Option”

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  1. Bryz says:

    You have to remember though that the Twins don’t use sabermetrics or even advanced statistics at all to judge a player. They stick to good ol’ familiar scouting, so they probably see Cuddyer as a power bat with average range and a good arm in RF. In their eyes, Cuddy is worth every penny. It frustrates me to no end, but this decade they’ve managed to put a winning team on the field more often than not.

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  2. Bryz says:

    Oh, and Cuddyer supposedly was an expert when it came to fielding balls off the baggie in RF when a group of us were arguing about if Cuddy or Young should play right. It led an acquaintance of mine to say, “It’s a baggie, not a Rubik’s Cube!”

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  3. Sam A says:

    Actually, they picked up his 2011 option. They now have him for two more years.

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    • H says:

      Exactly. The article stopped having any value as soon as the writer compared his 2011 salary to the estimated 2010 payroll. It is quite possible that Cuddyer will be worth the $8.5M the Twins are going to pay him in 2010, but not the $10.5M they are going to pay him in 2011. If I was the Twins FO, I would have declined the option if only because I would not want to make the commitment to 2011 this early. If they had declined it, it would not have precluded them from re-signing Cuddyer for 2011 at any point over the next 12 to 15 months.

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  4. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    this feels slightly disingenuous. You are predicting regression for his hitting, but not even a slight improvement over his historically bad fielding year? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Over the last 5 years he has been worth more than 8 wins. If he picks up a win and a half that’s a slight overpay, but not horribly egregious. Furthermore, the Twins are exactly in that zone where the marginal value of each win is worth its highest value (namely on the cusp of the playoffs every year, complete with extra playoff revenue etc etc).

    Lastly, they may have decided that they didn’t like the options that were projected to be in the market (not in terms of dollar committment per se, but in terms of players they could afford worth 1.5 wins or more either in free agency or in their system), or that the market would rebound this year after the Abreu signing. (I would disagree with both of these options but just offering it).

    I, in the end think they should’ve let him test free agency, but it wasn’t as clear as you made it, through really deceptive use of statistics.

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    • Kincaid says:

      He treated his hitting and fielding stats exactly the same. He took his career numbers for both wOBA and UZR (in right field), which are both significantly less extreme than his 2009 numbers. In UZR’s case, that means Jack is using -10 as opposed to -17, which is a significant improvement over his historically bad 2009. Add in the positional adjustment for right field to the -10 runs per year and it’s basically the equivalent, value-wise, of putting up the same offensive numbers as a DH.

      Whether career numbers are a decent enough proxy for a projection in Cuddyer’s case is debatable, but Jack is at least treating both offense and defense the same way, not predicting regression for one and not the other.

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  5. Bill@TDS says:

    I’m a bit shocked that there’s not a single mention of Mauer in this piece. If you’re looking to retain a franchise player who really wants to win, letting go of one of the four good hitters under your control would be a crappy way to do that, no? And I don’t think Mauer knows or cares any more than the Twins do about UZR.
    I think you could expect him to be worth about $8 million over each of the next two years, so considering they would’ve had to buy him out for $1M, they’re overpaying by about a million. I think that avoiding the effect that letting him walk would have had on the fans and potentially on Mauer is easily worth that $1M. Considering he fills a need and isn’t readily replaceable on the free agent or trade markets, so that $1M differences between price and value don’t really have any real-world application in this case, I think it was pretty much a no-brainer.

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  6. David says:

    As Sam A. said, they picked up his option for 2011, and as Bill pointed out, they would have had to pay him the 1M buyout otherwise, so really this is paying a player 9.5 million two years from now. Is it safe to assume that, with some inflation (the economy has to turn around by 2011, right?), the 9.5M might not be so bad for a player like Cuddyer? His numbers may go down a bit, but it’s also worth noting that 13 of Cuddyers homers this year were classified as “no doubters,” which suggests that Cuddyer’s balloon in ISO may not be an aberration, but due to true power.

    Also, I have to quibble about the Twins being “the epitome of a small market team.” This characterization has been validated due largely (only?) to the fact that the Twins played in a park with one of the worst leases in sports, where they got hardly any revenues from boxes or concessions (the MN Vikings reaped far more benefits from the dome’s revenues than did the Twins). The Twins now move into Target field with one of the best leases in baseball. With more revenue coming in, the Twins should be able to spend roughly on par with similar market sizes. St. Louis comes to mind. The Twins have never truly been a small-market team; they’ve been a team playing in a mid-sized market with a small-market stream of stadium revenue. That all changes with Target Field. They’re not a mid-market team.

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  7. David says:

    The end of my comment was supposed to say, “They’re not a SMALL market team.”

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  8. Brian says:

    Along with the points others have made (2011 option, not 2010. 9.5, not 10.5 when you factor in the buyout):

    payroll will be more than $70M in 2010. It will be closer to $80-$85M, maybe more. in 2011 it could be $90-$95M, which means that it would be closer to 10% of the payroll.

    And Cuddyer (allegedly) was dealing with nagging hand injuries in 07 and 08. 2009 was the first year he was really healthy in a while, so you could argue that 2009 might be more the rule than the exception.

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  9. SBG says:

    Eric Hinske would have been a better idea.

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    • Joe R says:

      Well Hinske HAS been on the last 3 AL champs (and 2 of the last 3 WS champs).

      I sense some Hinske magic.

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      • 198d says:

        As a Blue Jays fan (sigh), this is always depressing.

        Has anyone else noticed that Vernon Well’s last good year (2006) was the year that they traded Hinske in August?

        Does Fangraphs have a statistic which measures “magic?” :)

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Are people seriously going to keep mentioning Eric Hinske’s name every single time this site produces a column covering the Twins? We get it – Kubel’s HR/FB and BABIP jumped last year. Keep your pants on.

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      • Brent says:

        yes, as they should because the column was that preposterious.

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      • Bill@TDS says:

        It was a gigantic and foreseeable mistake made while criticizing the same front office they’re criticizing now. I think the statute of limitations on mentioning it every time they criticize the Twins has another two seasons or so left.

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      • greenmachine says:

        IN a word: yes.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        So, any time somebody who liked the Penny and Smoltz signings for Boston should be reminded if they praise Boston again? You’re making yourselves look petty and ridiculous as a collective fanbase.

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      • Bill@TDS says:

        No. The Penny and Smoltz signings were completely defensible before the fact. Arguing that signing Kubel for $3.5m a year was a bad idea because the Pirates signed Eric Hinske for less was ludicrous on its face before the fact, a very rare (but complete and utter) stinker by Mr. Cameron. That it happened to end up looking even more ridiculous than anyone could have anticipated AFTER the fact just makes it a little more fun.

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  10. Brent says:

    How do they in good faith turn down the option year on a player that they have spent nearly 13 years cultivating, especially after he finally lived up to the potential that they thought he had all along. How could they say, thanks for the great year Michael you helped push us to the playoffs, you did everything we expected of you and more, but we think your RF defense stinks, and we don’t think you are as good you showed this year so we are not going to pay you the 10.5 million a year from now. C’mon imagine the reaction the rest of the team would have to that, you instantly lose credibility from your team and fans. But hey at least the SABR community will applaud you which along 50 cents will get you a phone call.

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    • H says:

      Brent, it is interesting that you feel that the team that traded Johan Santana for 20 cents on the dollar rather than paying him for one more year – a year in which they might have been the best team in the AL – and collecting two first round picks, should now commit $9.5M to a guy for 2011 because after 13 years he finally produced a year in which he lived up to expectations.

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      • Brent says:

        From all accounts both Santana and Gardenhire made it clear that they wanted him to either be signed to an extension prior to the 08 season or traded, and not have it hang over the team as the season opened. I really don’t see how that situation is relevant to extending Cuddyer.

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    • H says:

      It’s relevant when you bring “imagine the reaction of the team and fans” into the equation. They made a financial decision to trade away one of the best pitchers in the game and the team kept playing and the fans kept supporting them. If they made a financial decision 17 months before the 2011 season begins to see if they can better use that $9.5M, I suspect the players would keep playing and the fans would keep supporting them.

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      • Brent says:

        Still don’t see the relevance. Santana was on under contract still when the Twins traded him. He was going to be and FA at years end and they had determined that they were not going to be able to meet his contract requirements. They also decided, and you can argue wrongly if you like, that they would rather try and trade him than receive the compesation picks. With Cuddyer they are picking up an extra year to his contract that may or may not be overvalued. The two situations have nothing to do with each other.

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      • Mike says:

        People make it sound like trading Santana was some horrible front office move. How does that $137.5m contract look right now? “But oh no, Cuddyer’s going to be overpaid by a couple million, and this team doesn’t know what it’s doing when it hands out extensions.” The Twins would take a PR hit worth at least a couple million (not to mention what kind of message it might send to Mauer) if they didn’t pick up the option. Consider the context.

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    • H says:

      I understand that Santana’s situation is not an apples-to-apples comparison to Cuddyer’s. Again, I only brought his name into the conversation to reference how the other players and the fans responded to trading one of the game’s top pitchers for 20 cents on the dollar. Basically, the players kept playing and the fans kept supporting the team.

      I hope that the team picked up Cuddyer’s 2011 option because they felt that he would be worth $9.5M in 2011 and that their decision was not influenced by how the other players and fans might feel about it had they chosen to decline.

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      • Andrew says:

        There’s a big, big difference in situation and context, though, between Santana and Cuddyer.

        The vast majority of Twins fans felt that we would not be able to re-sign Santana. We could have let him walk, and gotten a couple compensatoryt picks, or we could have tried to trade him. Committing over 1/4 of the annual payroll to Santana was simply not a viable option. The prospect of a new stadium wouldn’t justify paying near-market value on Santana before the new revenue would start coming in.

        With the stadium opening, however, my perception is that most Twins fans would be a lot more upset if we didn’t re-sign Cuddyer.

        Further, if there’s any possibility that letting Cuddyer go would impact Mauer’s decision to re-sign, the extra money we pay over Cuddyer’s on-field value could very easily be made up with an extension for Mauer. Even if the effect of Cuddyer’s option on Mauer is impossible to quantify, the viability of the franchise hinges on Mauer.

        You may feel I’m overstating the importance of Mauer, but as a Twins fan myself, and one who knows plenty of other Twins fans, I assure you that I am not.

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      • Andrew says:

        “I hope that the team picked up Cuddyer’s 2011 option because they felt that he would be worth $9.5M in 2011 and that their decision was not influenced by how the other players and fans might feel about it had they chosen to decline.”

        Again, if paying Cuddyer an extra million or two has any role in determining if Mauer re-signs, especially if he does so at a below-market contract, the Cuddyer deal makes sense in my opinion.

        If Mauer perceives that the Twins aren’t doing their best to place a winning team on the field, the chances of him leaving increase exponentially, no matter how loyal Mauer may be. From both a baseball standpoint and a financial standpoint, the viability of the Twins franchise hinges on re-signing Mauer.

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  11. jwilli7122 says:

    i don’t hate picking up the option as long as they now trade him for anything they can get.

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  12. brianS says:

    Cuddyer is a right-handed hitter with some pop. Apparently, those don’t grow on trees, because the Twins have been looking for another one to pair with Cuddy for years, to help balance their lefty-dominated lineup (Span, Mauer, Morneau, Hinske Kubel. (oh, come on; it’s still funny in Twins Territory)

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  13. JK says:

    I hate using his career wOBA for his projection going forward. Do his stats from 2001 really apply to his 2010 projection? Zips projects an OBP of 348 and a SLG of 475. Taken with -10 defense in RF a 2 WAR projection seems reasonable. He has been at or above that 3 of the past 4 years. The exception being his injury plagued 2008. A slight overpay, maybe. Hardly a crippling mistake.

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    • Kincaid says:

      Career wOBA is probably not a good projection for Cuddyer right now, but even that projection (.348/.475 would be about a .350-.355 wOBA) with -10 defense in right is more like 1.5-1.6 WAR. Add in that you need to project 2011 and not 2010, and both his offensive and defensive projections should drop a bit. So 2 WAR seems very optimistic to me.

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  14. WY says:

    I think that calling this a bad deal for the Twins is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. I can’t imagine many people would consider this a good deal, especially for a payroll-limited team like the Twins.

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    • WY says:

      I should rephrase that to say “pricey” rather than simply “bad.” “Bad” is probably a little strong. But they will likely be overpaying him by a good bit that last year (not factoring in whatever intangible factors that people may consider relevant).

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  15. WY says:

    P.S. There is a lot of Dave Cameron to the style of this article (writing and otherwise).

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  16. Luke in MN says:

    Agreed with the criticism of the column here. The Twins are in a position where they should be (maybe) slightly overpaying for contributors like Cuddyer. The fact that the SABR stats-to-dollaz calculator doesn’t quite come out in the Twins’ favor does not = a franchise-threatening mistake. I’m a big fan of the numbers thing, but I think you barely have to take a sniff of the soft factors to realize this is basically a no-brainer for the Twins front office, for good, if not entirely quantifiable reasons. Not entirely sure about your projection method either (I’ll take JK’s for my money), but whatever.

    Also: Twins circa 2011 are not the epitome of the small-market team. Epitome is one of those words you’ll learn not to throw around so casually after you graduate from college. Metrodome payroll figures of the last decade aside, I’d be shocked–SHOCKED!–to see the payroll within 10 million of your “liberal” estimate in 2010 or 2011. I think speculation revolves around the $85 million mark, which would be about what they’d need to spend to bring back their current team with Hardy and a raise for Mauer.

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  17. joser says:

    So my understanding is that Target field will be a little bigger in RF and significantly smaller in LF compared to the Metrodome. That may hurt Cuddyer’s fielding a little bit (especially with his “baggie banking” skill gone the way of the buggy-whip makers’), but for a guy who clearly gets much of his offense and almost all of his power to left field, that’s a very good fit. Of course we won’t know how the field actually plays for outfield flies until we see a lot of games played there — just look at New Yankee Stadium — but it’s quite possible that with Target Field aiding him in 81 games he’ll continue to put up strong offensive numbers even if he regresses somewhat in real terms.

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  18. Kirk says:

    this deal likely won’t be a great value to the Twins but it’s not bad since they have the payroll room. It’s speculated that the twins payroll will go as high as 85-90M this season which is quite a bit more than your 70M in 2011 number. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091102&content_id=7604978&vkey=news_min&fext=.jsp&c_id=min&partnerId=rss_min

    The other issue that is wrong with this article is that the Twins are building to win now. And that means adding quality players not subtracting them. It’s convenient to say that a player could be acquired cheaper in the future but this isn’t always the case and frequently this leads to teams having to overpay to fill a specific need. And the Twins have a definite specific need of a good RHB since Cuddyer was the only one worth a **** before Hardy was acquired. And there really isn’t much to replace Cuddyer in the OF until a bunch A ball OF prospects are ready conveniently at the end of this 2 yr commitment.

    Again it’s not a bargain (all deals can’t be bargains) but it’s a solid deal if a team has the payroll room and is in a win now mode.

    btw – the Kubel signing worked out fairly well despite a bad review here.

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  19. RonG. says:

    Prediction: By 2011, when this contract is complete, the term “UZR” will be gone from this site, only to be replaced by another untested, conceived-from-wholecloth defensive metric dujour that leads the site’s authors to come to laughable conclusions daily.

    Meanwhile, the Twins will have two more division championships to their credit, which will piss off these same authors to no end, and lead said authors to prove that those two championships really didn’t happen, because the pythag just doesn’t add up, and Bill Smith didn’t graduate from an Ivy League school.

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  20. John says:

    Cuddyer has been a Twin since 02.

    If the Twins have ANY HOPE of Resigning Mauer NOW, They had to show him by Acquiring Hardy and Giving Cuddy 2011 that they want to WIN in 2010 and 2011.

    That is a HUGE part of the reason they picked up the option.

    He is one of the nicest guys and best clubhouse guys on the time every year. Numerous stories about him as the team magician, etc.

    Also, I’m a Twins STH, they MUST INCREASE their payroll to 80-90 million Starting in 2009 with the New Park.

    Heck, they have Sold 8,000 Full and Half and 1/4 Ticket Plans since Summer. Most are 1/4’s but the building will be full for the next two years and the suites and club seats are gone.

    Way to go Twins! Spend more money finally!

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