So the Cubs got their man in Theo Epstein. The new GM’s long list of tasks will include addressing the dilemma at 1B, 3B, and possibly RF. Free agent Michael Cuddyer could be a fit for one of those spots.
The 32-year-old Cuddyer has been a fan favorite in Minnesota. In 11 seasons he’s put together a line of .272/.343/.451 with 141 home runs in 4,072 at bats (which is about a homer every 29 at bats). His best season at the plate was probably 2009, when he slugged 32 bombs, easily a career high. His 2006 campaign was solid as well, including a .362 OBP.
“Versatile” is a word frequently used to describe Cuddyer. Since breaking into the majors at age 22, he’s played 690 games in the OF, 210 games at 1B, 171 games at 3B, and 79 games at 2B. I know what some of you are thinking, but forget it. He’s not a 2B.
Cuddyer made $10 million in 2011, so he’s not in the “superstar” salary class. However, when the Pujols-Fielder dust settles, he may get a healthy emergency offer from a desperate GM who missed out on the big two.
How many years will he command on the free agent market? I’m not psychic, but I’d be willing to bet three or four. Would the Cubs be interested at say three years, $33 million? If so, do they settle on one position or move him around the diamond?
Cuddyer is a useful player, but is he a difference-maker in the lineup? My prediction is that Theo will pass on Mr. Cuddyer’s services and let another team overpay for him.
A surprise contender could be the Phillies. In case you missed it, Ryan Howard suffered an Achilles tendon injury on Friday. Would the Phillies bring in Cuddyer to play 1B in Howard’s absence? If so, where does he play once Howard returns? Does Cuddyer lower his contract expectations to possibly win a title in Philly?
Under any scenario, Cuddyer looks like an unlikely fit in Chicago.