Michael Cuddyer And The Seattle Mariners

I was thinking about this last night, when the rumor caught me off guard, and I decided I should write up something longer about it today. It's just another rumor, but it's not a Prince Fielder rumor, and it's not a post about a minor league free agent, so all in the interest of diversity. Plus, people like rumors. Rumors distract us from the horrible reality that has been the Seattle Mariners for the last two seasons.

The rumor is that the Mariners have interest in Michael Cuddyer as a free agent. Jon Heyman and Jon Morosi have said as much, although for all I know they have the same source. The rumor first came up yesterday, and it took me by surprise, although maybe it shouldn't have given that the Mariners keep everything close to the vest.

Now, I do not think that the Mariners are going to sign Michael Cuddyer. The Twins reportedly made him a three-year offer worth $24 million that he didn't accept, leaving the Twins to sign Josh Willingham instead. The Rockies now appear to be Cuddyer's most serious suitor, and there's talk he could even reach an agreement with them today. Hopefully he doesn't reach an agreement with them before I'm done writing this post. We can't speak to the Mariners' degree of interest, but they seem to be on the periphery, well behind Colorado.

But let's talk about this anyway. Cuddyer? He's 32. He'll turn 33 next March, unless something really weird happens. He's right-handed, and he's a hitter, in case you didn't know he's a hitter. He's always been a Twin, and he's been a pretty good Twin, especially since 2006. Before 2006, he had a 97 OPS+. Since 2006, he's had a 115 OPS+. He has a 117 OPS+ over the last three years.

Over those three years, he's been about as productive a hitter as Jason Bay (bad example) Adam Dunn (bad example) Jack Cust (bad example) Michael Young! That's good, even though I make fun of Michael Young all the time. You know how much you liked Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp last season? That's roughly how good Cuddyer has been at the plate for the last while. It stands to reason that he'll continue to be all right.

More, Cuddyer is kind of versatile with the glove. For his career, he's racked up significant playing time at first base, second base, third base, and right field. He played three of those last season. He's played all of those the last two seasons. Versatility is a plus, right?

Here's the thing. You knew there was a thing. Cuddyer can play a number of positions, but there's little evidence to suggest that he can play any of them well. This comes down to defensive statistics, so the defensive statistics could be completely wrong and thus I could be completely wrong, but it's not like Cuddyer is renowned for his glovework. He's a bat-first player.

And he's a bat-first player whose bat is good but not great, and who's turning 33 soon. And he wants a three-year contract worth something like $30 million. He might not get that contract, but remember the proposal from the Twins that he didn't accept. He and his agent are confident.

There are teams for whom Cuddyer makes sense, but I do not think that the Mariners, in their current state, are one of them. It would be different if Cuddyer would sign to a shorter contract, or a smaller contract, but even though I don't think he'll turn into a disaster, he doesn't strike me as someone into whom the Mariners should invest $30 million. Is he enough of an upgrade over Casper Wells? Is he enough of an upgrade over, I don't know, Kyle Seager? Because Wells and Seager stand to be dirt cheap for a while, and they're not getting old. They're getting older, but they're currently 27 and 24.

The idea of being able to station a bat like Cuddyer's at third base is an appealing one. The defense hurts, though, and the age makes it a risk. Maybe he keeps hitting the way Raul Ibanez kept hitting, or maybe he doesn't, the way we thought Raul Ibanez wouldn't. Cuddyer's bat needs to carry him, and he's out of his presumed prime.

I think Cuddyer could easily end up being worth the contract he wants, based on free agent valuation. About that three years, $30 million idea - over the last three years, FanGraphs pegs Cuddyer as being worth $30.1 million. I don't think Cuddyer shapes up to be a nightmare. But his upside is being worth about what he's paid, and maybe a little more, while his downside is being worth much less than that. It just doesn't seem like the sort of move the Mariners should make, given the Mariners' situation, and given the Mariners' payroll.

I have to think Cuddyer becomes a Rockie, and soon. If he becomes a Mariner, then hopefully there's something I've missed.

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