This was, among people who follow the Twins assiduously, regarded as an obvious move — and among outside analysts, regarded as a mistake.
From Seth Strohs: ... after a strong 32 home run season in which he carried the team for the final month of the year, this was an easy choice.
From Rob Neyer: Of course the problem is that Cuddyer has entered his decline phase. ... The Twins have a history of overspending on decent players while complaining about the high price of truly great players. ... if they're not able to keep Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer in the long term, their money mismanagement is simply going to drop them from contention.
From D.J. Short, via Circling the Bases: It seems counter to the way the Twins usually operate, since Cuddyer simply isn't worth that kind of money, especially with his below-average defense in right field.
From a purely stat viewpoint, Neyer's right. Cuddyer is not likely to hit as well in 2011 as he did in 2009. For that matter, I regard Cuddyer, in terms of production, to be essentially an average American League right fielder.
And, while not a critic of the move has mentioned it, in two years I think it likely that some of the wave of young outfielders in the lower reaches of the Twins farm system — Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, Chris Parmelee, Angel Morales — will start washing ashore. Some of them will never make it, and some won't make it that soon, but somebody's going to need room made for him.
All that said, I would have been astounded had the Twins let that option lapse. Neyer knows — although he sometimes writes as if he doesn't — that there is more to this game than the numbers tell us.
Players aren't Strat-O-Matic cards. They are humans, and Cuddyer appears — at least from this distance — to be one of those humans with a knack of leading. He buys into the Twins approach, and he finds ways to get his mates to get with the program.
We don't know how to measure leadership or find it in the numbers. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Neyer, and others, appear to assume that money was the reason Johan Santana was traded. I suspect — although I certainly wasn't in the room — that Santana and his agent made it obvious early in the 2007-0 postseason that he wanted to be in the New York or Boston market. Money was part of the equation. Length of contract was part of the equation. Ego was also part of it.
I doubt that committing $10.5 million to Cuddyer in 2011 will have any drag on the Twins ability to re-sign Mauer. To the contrary, dropping the option might have become an issue for Mauer. (It shouldn't, but it might have — again, he's human.)