Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cuddyer Will Be Back

Yesterday on Twitter, I asked the question:

What percent sure are you that Cuddy will be w the #Twins next year?

I got twenty responses, ranging from 1% to 99%; such is the range of opinion. I answered 80%, simply based on the fact that he likes the Twins and the Twins like (and, probably need) him. It seemed like something that would find a way to get done.

But after looking into my crystal ball, I think I’m going higher. And Cuddy might not be as thrilled with coming back as we (and he) might think. Here’s why.

If he keeps up his current pace, Michael Cuddyer will not just be a free agent, he’ll be a “Type A” free agent. What does that mean? It means he and the Twins need to do a dance:

Step 1: The Twins need to decide if they are going to offer Cuddyer arbitration.

This means that the Twins are essentially offering Cuddyer a one-year contract at whatever an arbitrator would decide he is worth, which is ironically probably more than he would make on the free agent market on a per year basis. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I did a quick analysis and figured that Cuddyer could be in line for as much as a three-year, $27 million contract. But if the Twins offered him arbitration, I’d need to guess that he might get ten or eleven million for 2012.

Why would the Twins offer that? We’ll get to that in step two. There is a major incentive for them to offer that deal to Cuddyer.

Likely result: the Twins offer arbitration. In general, the Twins have been willing to overpay for a one-year deal. We saw it this year with Matt Capps and Carl Pavano. There are countless other examples over the last ten years. The Twins worry about the length of multi-year deals, but often will pay a premium to only be tied up for one year.

Step 2: Cuddyer needs to decide if he will accept arbitration.

If he accepts it, he foregoes his free agency and goes to the arbitrator to figure out what he makes for 2012 and delays free agency by a year. That’s not a small risk. If he’s had a great year, not only is he risking that he won’t have as great a year next year, but he’ll be a year older, 33 instead of 32. He does not want to do that.

But rejecting it is tricky, too, and this is where we find out WHY they Twins offered arbitration.

Any team that offers their Type A free agents arbitration is compensated for losing them. Usually, this includes an extra compensatory high draft pick and another very high – first or second round – draft pick from the team that signs him. So any team that signed Cuddyer would not only need to pay the freight, they would also need to send the Twins their very high draft pick. In MLB, this is something that teams have been generally unwilling to do unless it has been for very desirable guys, especially over the last couple years. That greatly reduces Cuddyer’s potential suitors. His agent and he will need to decide if they’re likely to rank high enough for a big contract AND a high draft pick.

Likely result: if Cuddy accepts arbitration, it’s over – Cuddyer will be a Twins in 2012, albeit a grumpy one. So lets’ assume he rejects arbitration, just so we get to step 3.

Step 3: Cuddyer hits the free agent market with a loadstone around his neck.

Really premier guys are not slowed down by costing a team a first round pick. But Cuddyer, especially before this year, was not a premier guy. He suddenly falls behind some of the other names out there who teams don’t have to give up a first round pick to sign.

For instance, Jason Kubel doesn’t look like he’ll be a Type A free agent. As such, a team wouldn’t need to give up their first round pick to sign Kubel. So if the choice is signing Cuddyer and giving up the pick, or signing Kubel and not, you can expect that Kubel leapfrogs Cuddyer. Cody Ross is another example of a guy that could do the same thing. Pretty soon, the teams that are will to pay big bucks dry up.

You might remember, this is essentially what happened to Carl Pavano this offseason. By January, most starting pitchers had signed. Pavano was the subject of plenty of rumors, but no really good offers. Instead, teams kept telling the media that the Twins wanted Pavano to return, and Pavano wanted to return, and nobody wanted to give up their draft pick, and…..

And eventually the Twins worked out a fairly reasonable deal with Pavano.

Likely result: ditto.

The Twins know this. They are certainly not opposed to it, given how many other outfielders they might be leaving, and how desperate their team is for right-handed power.

They will also lose the ability to offer that arbitration if they trade Cuddyer. They’ll also lose the chance of getting two high draft picks for him if he walks as a free agent. Any offer for Cuddyer is going to need to be crazy good, and the Twins would need to feel like they have no hope of competing, and even then, I’m not sure the Twins would pull the trigger.

So, up my prediction to 90%. And whether you like it or not, expect Cuddyer to be in a Twins uniform next year.


Honestly, why aren’t you following Seth, Nick, Parker and myself on Twitter? Its not like facebook. It’s basically a 140 character blog delivered right to your phone or PC. Oh, and with several dozen posts a day. Just click on the links above and click follow. I’m telling you, try it. What exactly are you afraid of losing?


Anonymous said...

I kinda figured the Twins and he have a gentleman's agreement on this. The Twins will offer arbitration and he'll say no and, if he can't find a better deal, the Twins will resign him to a pre-agreed upon three year deal near his market value.

TT said...

Good analysis, although I think your salary numbers are high.

"The Twins worry about the length of multi-year deals, but often will pay a premium to only be tied up for one year."

As does every team in baseball I suppose. The fact is teams don't budget for one season, they look at the total salary commitment they are making.

Another way to look at this is that teams are willing to pay more for two seasons of play than they are for one. But how much more depends on how they project a player to develop. In the case of Cuddyer, he is on the downside of his career. In the case of Span, he was on his upside and they were willing to pay a "premium" for future seasons.

In all cases, there is future uncertainty. That plays out to the advantage of the team. The player has only one career to wager on and no way to hedge the bet. By contrast, the team has multiple players and can afford to have a couple failures.

The question with Cuddyer's salary is how much extra are the Twins willing to risk in order to have Cuddyer for a second year. I suspect a deal would need to be in $15 - $18 million range to entice the Twins to commit salary beyond arbitration.

Anonymous said...

The Losing a Draft Pick is overblown for Type A Free Agents. 15 teams wouldn't lose their 1st rd pick and the Twins would end up with another supplmental pick which is nothing special. So only a 50% chance they get a 1st pick.
As for Cuddy I wouldn't offer him arbitration because I doubt he can get a 3 year deal on the market and 10-12 million for him is scary to pay for an average player when the Twins could do a lot more with the money.
The Twins have outfielders in surplus. Joe Benson should be ready by next year or close. He plays great defense and projects as a full-time outfielder. Add him with Revere and Span and its the best defense in the majors.
That's if the Twins don't keep Young and possibly Kubel. They also have a potential 4th outfielder in Rene Tosconi or Chris Parmelee in the future. Not to mention Aaron Hicks or Arcia.
I know everybody loves Cuddy but he is below average in the field and that's in right and a streaky medicore hitter.

TT said...

1) There really isn't that much difference between a late first round and early second round pick.

2) I don't know that "the Twins could do a lot more with the money." At least not for next season. Even $12 million might only buy you a middle reliever on the free agent market. You might get three years for that money, but the longer the contract the bigger the gamble you will end up with little or nothing for the money.

3) Benson is not close to ready. He is struggling at AA at this point. Hicks could easily pass him by next year.

4) Young will be a free agent after next season. Which means the Twins should probably move him in the off-season. They aren't going to give him a long term contract at the price Boras is likely to demand.

An outfield of Span, Revere and Cuddyer next year seems like a likely scenario. Cuddyer's right handed power, combined with his flexibility, makes him a valuable role player even if one of the young prospects takes an outfield spot in the next couple years.