On the other hand, I happen to like Cuddyer a lot. Oh, I don't enjoy watching catchable fly balls drop in front of him, or watching him whiff on a breaking pitch four feet out of the strike zone with two outs and runners in scoring position, but come on, who doesn't love card tricks?
Not to mention this smile:
I am a sucker for dimples. Stupid girl crush aside however, Cuddyer is probably the best free agent outfielder available on the market this year, considering Carlos Beltran is a little older and has the knees of an 85 year-old man. It isn't as though the Twins have an abundance of
The AL Cy Young award winner won't be announced for another week or so, but it will likely be one of C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, or Dan Haren (among others, there were many fantastic pitching performances this year). Verlander is easily the favorite (provided he isn't named the MVP); he did win 24 games (I know, I know, but the voters think wins are pretty) and he has the edge in both innings pitched (251 compared to 237.1 and 238.1 for Sabathia and Haren, respectively) and strikeouts (250, 20 more than the second place C.C.). Oh, and he pitched a no-hitter, too. Verlander held opponents to a .192/.242/.313/.555 slash line; opponents batted .236/.265/.364/.630 against Haren and .255/.305/.361/.666 against Sabathia. The Twins as a team batted .247/.306/.360/.666. It was a running joke in the Picked Off At First household that every opposing pitcher looked like a Cy Young winner against the Twins; it turns out that wasn't far from the truth.
The best hitters on the 2011 Twins were Jim Thome (127 OPS+), Cuddyer (121), Jason Kubel (111), and, yes, noted pansy Joe Mauer (103). Not only were these the best hitters in the lineup, they were the only regulars to post an OPS+ above 100 (though Span certainly would have been the fifth, if he hadn't gotten hurt towards the end of the season). Thome has already signed with Philly, Cuddles might join him, and the odds are pretty good that Kubel won't be back, either. Hoo boy, even if everyone somehow miraculously manages to stay healthy next year, it looks like the Twins will still be serious contenders for the worst offense in all of baseball.
And that is precisely why the Twins should let Cuddyer walk and focus instead on adding depth. Joe Benson and Ben Revere will probably get the chance to compete for starting jobs in spring training, but Revere looks to be a fourth outfielder at best and Benson could use a little more seasoning in AAA. Cody Ross and Josh Willingham could make decent, cheap stopgaps, but really there are a lot of corner outfielders on the market who could fit that bill. It might be worth it to take a flier on Grady Sizemore if the price is right, but the Twins have more than enough left-handed hitters as it is, and it appears his best years are behind him.
Furthermore, the Twins got putrid production out of their infield last season. Drew Butera, Matt Tolbert, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were three of the worst hitters in all of baseball:
|image credit: a straight steal from Fangraphs.com (click to embiggen)|
The Twins will be interesting to watch this offseason. They have money to spend, but they also have a lot of holes to fill. Bill Smith is not officially on the hot seat yet, but his body of work over the past four seasons has been largely unimpressive. He has a chance to redeem himself with some smart moves, like he did in the 2009-2010 offseason when he picked up Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and J.J. Hardy on the cheap, and he cannot afford to squander it.