Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Contemplating Cuddyer's looming free agency

Michael Cuddyer was a first round draft pick by the Twins in 1997 and in his eleven year big league career there has only been one name on the front of his jersey, the Minnesota Twins. That could change this offseason as Cuddyer will be facing free agency for the first time in his career.

Cuddyer was elected to his first All-Star Game earlier this season and he will likely be named the MVP of the Twins at the conclusion of the season. It is not much of an honor to be named the MVP on what could be one of the worst team's in franchise history. He has moved all over the field once again this season and he even found himself pitching an inning out of the bullpen earlier this year.

For his career, Cuddyer has made $29 million and his total career salary could double with the contract he will sign over the winter. The outfield market is tight this year and Cuddyer will be near the top of many different team's want lists for the offseason. This means the asking price for the services of a reliable 32-year old veteran could be in high demand.

The Twins made Cuddyer a ridiculous contract offer earlier in August for a total of $16 million over two years. The Twins know that Cuddyer wants to stay in Minnesota and the team tried to take advantage of that fact by offering him a low-ball contract. He is currently earning $10.5 million in a team option year of a contract he signed in 2008. Entering the open market could mean that Cuddyer will be receiving a contract in the range of three years and $30 million. At the end of that contract, Cuddyer would be 36-years old and most likely nearing the end of his career.

If the Twins are really content on keeping Cuddyer, there are a few options the team can pursue after the season has concluded. According to the latest Elias Rankings projections, Cuddyer ranks as the last type A outfielder in the coming free agent class. This means the Twins could offer Cuddyer arbitration and if he turns it down and does not resign with the Twins then the team would receive two draft picks in next year's draft. The Twins would get the first round selection of the team that signed him, if it is not a protected pick, and a pick in the compensation round.

There is no question that Cuddyer is looking to sign a multi-year deal so there might be less risk in the Twins offering him arbitration. If he were to accept arbitration, he would end up making a decent raise for next season but his future earnings would be in doubt. The Twins can offer him arbitration and hope that other teams will be scared away from him in the free agent market because of the draft picks it would cost.

Cuddyer will also consider the direction of the franchise in the offseason. There have been so many things to go wrong with the Twins in 2012 and the losing could have been tough on Cuddyer this season. The franchise cornerstone trio of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span are all question marks entering next season. Is this a team that is going to win a championship in the next three to four years? All signs point to no and that has to be something that will cross through Cuddyer's mind.

Attendance has dropped significantly at Target Field in the waning weeks of the season. This loss of capital could mean the Twins are looking at cutting back on payroll for coming year. There are many holes the Twins need to fill to improve on what could be only the second 100-loss team in franchise history. Cuddyer's hefty free agent contract might not be in the cards unless he is willing to take a drastic hometown discount to stay with the club.

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