Archive for Michael Cuddyer

We’ve already covered a bunch of players in Part I and Part II of the 2013 Potential Trade Targets series, so for those of you who missed out those posts, be sure to get yourself caught up. For the rest of us, there’s no time like the present, so let’s jump into the next batch of names.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Justin Morneau
There was a time, not so long ago mind you, that most teams would be quite interested in a first baseman like Morneau. From 2004-2010, he hit 18 or more home runs each season (30+ home runs in his 2006 MVP season, 2007 and 2009). Throughout his career, he’s been largely considered a solid defensive player and an all-around good clubhouse guy as well.

Unfortunately, he’s not the same player he once was these days. In 2010, his season was derailed by a concussion (and lingering symptoms afterwards). The 2011 season required a neck surgery to fix of a pinched nerve. Shortly thereafter, Morneau experienced more concussion-like symptoms after suffering a shoulder injury (which ultimately shut him down for the rest of the season). He finally made it back onto the field in 2012, and posted very mediocre numbers (.267/.333/.440, .330 wOBA, 108 wRC+) though the former HR Derby champ did manage to hit 19 long balls in the process (.172 ISO).

This season has brought more of the same mediocrity (.288/.342/.407, .328 wOBA, 107 wRC+), except it’s now without the power. Morneau’s hit only four (!) home runs thus far. He’s also taking fewer walks (down about three percent from his career norm). Contractually, he’s owed approximately $7.5M for the rest of the season, after which point he’ll hit free agency. Personally speaking, the team can’t afford another guy incapable of hitting the ball over the fence, especially one who plays a position known for premium offensive production.

Now I can understand why Yankees fans may feel some trepidation about first base production for the rest of the season (and maybe even beyond). After all, Mark Teixeira is done for the year and Lyle Overbay was the same caliber player offensively and has cooled considerably since his hot start. I’m not sure Morneau is the answer though. We’re talking about an expensive past-his-prime-veteran rental, who’s basically been replacement level the past couple seasons. Granted, I don’t think it would take too much to acquire him in terms of prospects due to the power shortage and durability concerns, but who knows, maybe the Twins value him differently given his local popularity and past contributions. Frankly, I’d just prefer the team roll the dice on a guy like Mike Morse, who could play multiple positions and come at half the salary. Basically, Morneau is one Twinkie I’m okay passing on (see what I did there?).

Josh Willingham
When I think of Willingham, I think of a guy who has basically been the quintessential role player — which don’t get me wrong, certainly has value. As it turns out, my initial perception was about right on this one too. The now 34-year-old Willingham has been mostly a bit better than the average guy over the years (2.7 fWAR in 2008, 2.4 in 2009, 2.7 2010, 1.8 in 2011). Last season he managed to make the jump from “role player” to the type of guy I would probably categorize as “solid contributor” (3.6 fWAR).

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Willingham. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

The 2013 campaign hasn’t been as kind to Josh though. Despite the fact that he’s managed to lead the Twins in home runs (with 10), he’s slumped (.224/.356/.398, .336 wOBA, 113 wRC+). A lot. He’s also had to nurse a balky left knee. To his credit though, Willingham has managed to get on base frequently via the walk (13.1 BB%) though he does strike out often (25.8 K%). It’s also probably worth noting that from 2010-2012, Josh has had an increasing propensity to struggle against lefties. This season hasn’t followed suit though, as a reverse split has become noticeable instead (a tidbit I’m not real sure what to make of yet). Maybe he’s one of those guys who could benefit from a change of scenery; I know I’d find playing in Minnesota pretty tedious. Also, if he were in pinstripes, you’d be comparing Willingham’s slumping numbers against those posted by Vernon Wells which certainly bodes well for his cause.

Although the Twins are only a few games under .500, I do think they kind of stink, and I do expect them to be potential sellers at the deadline. Assuming the Yankees were one of Willingham’s suitors, they would potentially be on the hook for about $3.5M this season and another $7M next season. If I had to guess, I’d say a mid-level prospect and some salary gets it done. The real question isn’t whether he’s better than Big Vern though. It’s whether you’re comfortable with another role player patrolling the outfield for the next season and a half full-time. I’m not sure that I am, though if it wound up happening it wouldn’t be the worst move in the world.

Marlon Byrd
First off, it’s my official stance that anyone whose first name is Marlon should have the last name Brando, so that’s strike one. Secondly, the Mets outfield, as a whole, is terrible. They’re ranked 28th in wOBA (.298), 26th in wRC+ (91), and 28th in fWAR (0.2) — sounds a lot like another NY team I know actually — so Byrd gets strike two for guilt by association. He’s also on the wrong side of 35, which makes for a convenient strike three.

Superficiality aside, Marlon has been by far the best outfielder in an otherwise anemic group. He’s hit .262/.313/.489 (.341 wOBA, 120 wRC+) with 12 home runs and is on pace to end the season at about 3.0 fWAR which would be not only be pretty good generally speaking, but would mark the second best WAR produced by Byrd personally since his 2010 campaign with the Cubs.  Historically, he’s been pretty inconsistent throughout his career in terms of production though.  On the plus side, although Byrd’s patrolled right field for the Mets this season, he’s also capable of manning Center Field as well (which would provide some added depth behind Gardner).

Perhaps the best argument that could be made here for obtaining Byrd is that he’s dirt cheap right now ($700K) — remember he was close to retiring this past offseason (he would have called it quits had he not made the big league roster out of Spring Training). His stock was way down after his season ended rather abruptly last season after testing positive for Tamoxifen, a banned substance.  If the Yankees could squeeze half a season of decent production out of him, they’d have no problems cutting ties afterwards — he’d certainly pose no threat to the austerity budget if that ends up happening.

The Mets have a lot of work to do in their own outfield, so I don’t know that it makes a whole sense for them to give up the one guy who’s been a productive contributor this season.  While they may not be expecting to contend now, they might favor the idea of having Byrd as relatively cheap insurance policy (despite his age) in 2014. Perhaps a mid-level prospect is enticing enough to make it happen though — after all, salary isn’t an issue here. In any event, I’m okay passing on Marlon Not-Brando Byrd given the age.

Air Cuddyer. (Victor Decolongon/Getty)

Air Cuddyer. (Victor Decolongon/Getty)

Michael Cuddyer
Is it just me, or does Cuddyer’s name come up every single year around this time? I feel like he’s one of those players folks are perpetually advocating a trade for. Anyway, the former Twins first round pick is another Willingham type — that is to say a role player who has value, but is probably not a difference maker.

Other than 2010, which was awful (0.4 fWAR), I think Cuddyer has generally been considered a decent outfielder despite playing a pretty poor defense — though to his credit, he can fake it at first if necessary, which would certainly help the Yankees in terms of roster flexibility.  Offensively, he’s a career .274/.343/.461 (.348 wOBA, 112 wRC+) hitter who averages roughly 13 home runs a year. He doesn’t take a ton of walks (career 8.9 BB%) but also doesn’t strike out a ton (career 17.9 K%) either. This is his age 34 season, and he’s owed about $5.25M for the rest of this season and another $10.5M next year.

I was dubious about the Willingham contract, and doubly so about this one. Cuddyer isn’t getting any younger, and I suspect the Rockies would require a decent prospect in addition to salary relief. Is he better than what the Yankees have deployed in right field thus far? Definitely. Is he the type of impact bat that’s worth the money, the prospects surrendered, and the additional year of service? Meh, I’m not convinced.  Cuddyer is a fine player and every team needs guys like him. I just think cheaper alternatives who can provide comparable production probably exist elsewhere.

Categories : Trade Deadline
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Got five questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box (in the sidebar) is the best way to send us stuff.

(Jamie Squire/Getty)

Conor asks: Would trading one of Tyler Austin, Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott for Nick Castellanos make sense for both teams? The Tigers are going to have him move to right field since they have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the infield corners. Seems that trading him for a player whose already demonstrated he can play the outfield is a better idea.

Now that’s interesting. Castellanos is a one of the best prospects in baseball — Baseball America ranked him 11th overall while Keith Law ranked him 18th in their midseason updates — thanks to a career .316/.367/.443 batting line with 17 homers in 276 minor league games. Baseball America recently ranked him as Detroit’s top prospect, saying he’s “[o]ne of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues” in their subscriber-only scouting report. Since Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez are clogging the infield corners and DH spot, the Tigers shifted Castellanos from third base to right field this past July. Baseball America said “he could be an average outfielder” with experience.

The Yankees have plenty of high-end outfield prospects as you mentioned, as both Williams (#28) and Austin (#39) cracked Baseball America’s midseason update (Williams made Law’s, which was only 25 players deep). New York would probably have to kick in a little something extra, but a Castellanos-for-Williams trade (for example) isn’t outrageous at all. Both have their own red flags (Williams is coming off shoulder surgery, Castellanos strikes out a lot for a guy who hasn’t shown much power yet), but Castellanos doesn’t have an obvious spot with the Tigers while Williams would be coming from a position of depth. Prospect-for-prospect trades rarely happen because every team loves their prospects more than everyone else’s, but I do think a swap like this makes some sense for both clubs.

Jason asks: Just wondering what you would think of a possible Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, or David Phelps trade to the Rockies for either Michael Cuddyer or Jordan Pacheco. I think Pacheco fits perfectly with NYYs needs. Right-handed outfielder and third basemen and can even fake catcher at times. The Rockies need starting pitching badly.

I wouldn’t touch Cuddyer. He’s 33 years old and he was just barely a league average hitter (102 wRC+) in Coors Field last season. Plus he spent nearly half the year on the DL and isn’t anything special on defense despite the supposed versatility. The Rockies can have fun with that $21M he’s owed over the next two seasons, no way would I want the Yankees to give up something of value for that.

Pacheco, on the other hand, makes some sense. He turns 27 later this month and is a .306/.338/.413 career hitter in 593 plate appearances. Don’t get too excited, that’s only a 91 wRC+ because Coors has turned back into a launching pad. Pacheco always had strong walk rates in the minors (10%+), but it’s dipped to just 4.2% in the show. I’m not sure what that’s about. He can play the three non-shortstop infield spots adequately and catch in an emergency, plus he’s under team control for another five years. I’m not giving up Hughes, Nova, or Phelps for a bench player though, Colorado would have to be willing to take something less.

(Bob Levey/Getty)

John asks: Since the Yankees need a cost controlled right-handed outfield bat for 2013 (and 2014) does it makes sense to target someone like Justin Maxwell? He has power and is slightly above average defensively. Sure he doesn’t take a walk and his contact rate isn’t that good but a relatively young, arbitration-eligible (until 2017) 4th outfielder/platoon bat with some decent speed, defense and power doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me…your thoughts?

The Yankees had the 29-year-old Maxwell in camp last season, but he was out of minor league options and they lost him on waivers to the Astros at the end of Spring Training. He put together a 107 wRC+ overall with Houston, but was especially tough on southpaws: .272/.387/.505 (144 wRC+). Maxwell has some Andruw Jones in him (the old version, not the Braves version) because he hits for big power (.232 ISO), will draw a walk (9.1%), and can strike out with the best of ‘em (32.4%). Andruw actually has more favorable rates, but Maxwell will steal the occasional base and is better on defense.

Clearly the Yankees should have dumped Jones and kept Maxwell last year, but that’s a pure hindsight statement. Maxwell is a platoon player on the short-end of the playing time stick and should be treated as such. The Yankees shouldn’t have to overpay to get him back just because. If the Astros will take a Grade-B prospect, sure. I wouldn’t go much higher, we’re not talking about Mike Trout here. Maxwell is under team control for another few years and that’s nice, but I don’t focus too much on years of control when talking about bench guys (and relievers). They rarely stick around that long anyway.

Anonymous asks: Given that college baseballs apparently travel less in the air and have higher seams (which make breaking balls more effective), how would you evaluate college players in light of this? Would you downgrade fly ball pitchers and/or pitchers with less velocity (i.e., more reliant on breaking balls)? Would you give extra credit to hitters who had success against breaking balls?

It’s not just college balls, the balls they use in the minors are different than the ones they use in the big leagues as well. Craig Hansen and Bryce Cox were two guys who threw vicious breaking balls in school but couldn’t get the ball to move the same way as a professional, so they flamed out. Teams are obviously aware of this and I don’t really know how they address it. I’m guessing each club does it a different way. Preferably you’d see a pitcher several times (high school, college, summer league, private workout, etc.) before the draft, giving you plenty of chances (with different balls) to evaluate him. Hitters who can hit breaking balls tend to grade out well anyway, but I’m not sure if you’d give him extra credit for doing it against a college ball. I don’t really know the answer to this question, but the difference in balls (this applies to Japan and Korea as well) is something teams must consider when evaluating a player.

Chris asks: Would you consider new aged sabermetrics a “performance-enhancer”? 25 years ago players were judged based on simple stats which were visible and tangible to the fan. RBI, HR, AVG etc. Now advanced metrics allow us to judge players on a whole new level. Wouldn’t you agree that certain platoon players would have not found jobs 25 years ago but do today because certain metrics say they can still hit lefties or are victims of bad ball in play luck?

“Performance-enchancer” implies that they’re helping the player perform better than they normally would. A player getting a job because some front office executive used stats to determine he was being undervalued doesn’t really qualify to me. Maybe if the player was using stats to improve his performance they would be considered a “performance-enhancer,” but I’m not sure how that would work. It’s not like a pitcher could independently focus on lowering his HR/FB% or something. Looking at stats is the same as looking at scouting reports for me.

Just as an aside: The term “performance-enhancer” itself bugs me because it carries far too many connotations. I wish they’d just stick to calling them banned substances. No need to automatically tag them as performance-enchancing when we don’t know how much they really help. Trust me, there have been plenty of players who improperly used PEDs and wound up hurting themselves more than they helped.

Categories : Mailbag
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Got six questions for you this week, covering a wide range of topics. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week, that’s the easiest way to do it.

(Photo Credit: ChiCitySports.com)

Chris asks: What kind of contract will Aramis Ramirez get? Is it too soon into the A-Rod deal to bring in someone like Ramirez to play 50 games at 3rd? As Alex declines in his ability to play every day when do the Yankees look to put more than a bench player at 3rd?

I don’t know what kind of deal Ramirez will get, but he’s not going to sign with the Yankees to be a part-time player. Even if you sell him on the idea of being a part-time third baseman and a part-time DH, then you’re blocking Jesus Montero with another guy past him prime. I thought Alex Rodriguez looked fine defensively late in the season and during the playoffs, plus he can still hit (fifth among third baseman in wOBA over the last two years), just not at the absurd level he once did. The problem is staying on the field. Going year-to-year with Eric Chavez types is perfectly fine right now, spending big bucks and locking yourself into more bad contracts is counterproductive.

John asks: Hey guys, I just wondered what you guys thought about signing Michael Cuddyer to a contract as the ultimate utility man? He could be the 4th outfielder, cover A-Rod at third, cover first (if the Yankees trade Nick Swisher) and also get a few at bats at DH. By covering all of those he could get 350-400 at-bats guaranteed. Also if someone went down injured he could get more. What would it take to sign him?

Again, it’s the same thing as Aramis. Cuddyer’s not going to settle for 350-400 at-bats with the Yankees when half the league is willing to play him everyday. Versatility is nice, but he’s nothing special with the glove (at any position) and nothing special against right-handed pitchers (.313 wOBA last two years). You’re again taking playing time from Montero, and again handing out a big contract to a player in his decline phase. Cuddyer’s the kind of guy that will get a three or four year deal, and a year from now the team that signs him will be asking themselves “what have gotten ourselves into?”

The idea of a super-sub has gotten out-of-hand in the last few years, going back to the obsession with Chone Figgins and Mark DeRosa. There’s someone like this every winter. Just sign bench players to be bench players rather than sign an everyday player and pigeon-hole him into a reduced role. That’s better than locking yourself into someone that doesn’t really want to do the job.

John asks: Are you concerned by the new CC Sabathia contract? I am no expert on contracts but I found his contract very interesting in that the option vests once he avoid shoulder injuries over the years – Is this normal for an option? Has he had shoulder issues in the past? Or why would they put that in there? If they were putting conditions in there I would have figured issues with his weight or knee (past issue and weight) over his shoulder?

I’m not at all worried about it, frankly I think that contract was the best case scenario. They only had to add one more guaranteed year, and sixth year option does include some protection against major shoulder injury. Sabathia’s arm has been perfectly healthy throughout his career, with his only two DL stints resulting from oblique strains.

The Yankees probably just put that in there to protect themselves a bit. The guy’s thrown a ton of innings already and figures to throw a ton more during the life of the extension, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to worry about his health five years from now. Elbows are generally fixable, but shoulders can’t be much more problematic. I’m guessing the Yankees didn’t put any kind of weight clause in there because they feel comfortable about his work ethic and all that, plus his weight is theoretically controllable. The health of his shoulder is pretty much out of everyone’s hands. If it’s going to go, there’s not much they can do about it. I think both sides did very well with the contract, CC got his extra money and the Yankees kept their ace at a reasonable cost.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sam asks: Would it make sense to trade for Dom Brown and then have him try and re-discover his mojo in AAA? That way, when Swisher’s contract is up next year he could hopefully slot right in.

Oh definitely, I’m a big Domonic Brown fan, I just don’t think the Phillies will trade him. They need to add some cheap pieces around that expensive core, and Brown figures to step right in for the departed Raul Ibanez. He does have big left-handed pop though, and when those bonus Brown-for-Dellin Betances rumors popped up on Twitter before the trade deadline, I prematurely started drooling about Brown and Montero hitting three-four for the next decade.

Matt asks*: Why not play hardball with Yu Darvish? Why not use their best asset (money) while using the posting system to their advantage, i.e. bid $40-50 million for his rights then offer a 5-year $30 million dollar deal. The Yankees could just make it a take it or leave it offer, and if he rejects he heads back to Japan and the Yankees get their posting fee back. They could then do the same thing next year. 

* I had to do some major chopping to get this question down to a reasonable length, but this gets the point across.

As far as I know, there’s nothing actually stopping the Yankees (or any team, really) from doing this, though MLB and NPB can award the player’s negotiating rights to the second highest bidder if they feel the winning team did not act in good faith. This isn’t a video game however, there are reputations and business relationships at stake here. Darvish is represented by Arn Tellem, one of baseball’s most powerful agents. He represents guys like former Yankees Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi (so we know the two sides have a good working relationship already), as well as plenty of other clients, including some of the best players in the game. If the Yankees stonewall Tellem with Darvish, it doesn’t exactly set a good tone for their relationship going forward. I think their overall reputation within the game would take a hit as well.

Remember, negotiations aren’t a “Team vs. Player” situation. It should be two sides working together to make a deal happen, and there’s give and take on both sides. Play hardball with Darvish and coax him into signing an unfair deal, then you’re stuck with an unhappy player.

Dan asks: With the possibility that the Yankees bring back Freddy Garcia and the number of potential back of the rotation pitchers they have in AAA, how likely is it that the Yankees pass on making any major moves this offseason? They could plan to go into this season with a rotation of CC, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, and Garcia and try to get a pitcher like Cole Hamels next offseason to replace Garcia and then maybe Josh Johnson the following year when A.J. comes off the books?

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees didn’t do anything more to shore up the rotation beyond bringing Sweaty Freddy back. That would be a mistake in my opinion, because you can’t count on Garcia repeating what he did last year, nor can you count on Phil Hughes rebounding or A.J. Burnett not sucking. Nova’s not a given to do anything either. I like the depth in Triple-A, but I’d rather not see those guys on April 10th or something. This pitching staff wasn’t a problem in 2011, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in 2012.

Next winter’s crop of free agent pitching is crazy deep, and it’ll continue to be even if a few of those guys sign extensions between now and then. Can’t get Hamels? Then there’s John Danks. Can’t get Matt Cain? There’s Zack Greinke. Or Shaun Marcum. Or Francisco Liriano. The list goes on and on. The Yankees do want to win in 2011 obviously, but Brian Cashman showed tremendous restraint last offseason after losing out on Cliff Lee. I suspect he’ll do the same if nothing to his liking comes along this winter.

Categories : Mailbag
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