The Michael Cuddyer Problem
By Hayden Kane
Michael Cuddyer is a lovable free-agent-to-be. The Colorado Rockies created a problem for themselves with Cuddyer over the course of the last three seasons.
The problem with Michael Cuddyer for the Colorado Rockies is the fact that the Rockies love Michael Cuddyer.
Who can blame them? Cuddyer is one of the classiest athletes you will ever cheer for. He plays hard, is kind to fans, is a leader to his young teammates, and says all of the right things. If you are a parent of a young fan, you will never have to worry about seeing Cuddyer’s name in the papers for the wrong reason.
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There are also plenty of baseball reasons to love Cuddyer too. He brings the kind of rare right-handed power that MLB teams covet. He will take the extra base and come through in clutch spots. The guy even won a batting title in 2013. When he has been healthy, he has been outstanding for the Rockies.
But he hasn’t been healthy for two of his three seasons in Colorado, and in 2014 he was blocking playing time for talented players like Corey Dickerson and Drew Stubbs. That did not have to be the case, but the Rockies signed Cuddyer’s buddy Justin Morneau to play first base before the season started. It is hard to argue with the results from Morneau, who won a batting title himself, but the move still made no sense when the Rockies had the option of moving Cuddyer to first base full time.
The Rockies overpaid Cuddyer when they initially signed him. Everybody knows that. Given the spikes in his value the last few seasons, the Rockies could have capitalized on Cuddyer’s value. They could have traded him when they signed Morneau or they could have traded him mid-season in 2013 or 2014. They didn’t.
Colorado’s front office refused to trade Cuddyer multiple times when they could have maximized their return for him. That now looms as a mistake for two reasons:
- The money it cost them to keep him
- The risk of losing him for nothing this winter
But the latter point clearly never registered, and here’s why: the Rockies are going to freaking try to sign him again.
Maybe he will be out their price range. Maybe the Rockies realize that the money and the fit simply isn’t there. But if I know the Rockies, with owner Dick Monfort involved, they will try to sign Cuddyer anyway because they love him and because there is enough of a baseball argument to do so because of his talent. They will try to bring him back even though there is not a fit for him on the roster and even though they really don’t have the money for him.
The snark about intangibles among the internet-baseball-writing community probably goes too far sometimes, but the situation over the last three years with the Rockies and Cuddyer serves as an example of why it can be so infuriating: the Rockies have the tiniest margin for error as they try to maximize the assets on their roster, yet they continue to choose to put themselves in bad spots because of their commitment to leadership and veteran know-how.
The Colorado Rockies continue to make moves in the interest of easing organizational transitions or instilling leadership in a troubled locker room. Those factors matter, but talent and ideal roster construction matter more, and the Rockies continue to put themselves behind the rest of the league by not understanding that.
Michael Cuddyer, lovable though he is, became the embodiment of that problem. That will only be more true if the Rockies bring him back in 2015.