Thursday, July 28, 2011

The complicated value of Michael Cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer's pitching "skill" isn't a serious factor in
his value. His willingness/eagerness to help his team by
taking on such a task is.
Question: Should the Twins trade Michael Cuddyer this week?

Honest Answer: It depends. What are they getting back?

The notion being peddled by Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune — trade Cuddyer for whatever and then re-sign him as a free agent — isn't as clear cut as he pretends to think it is. (Maybe he really DOES think it's clear-cut, but in that case I'll pretend that I think he's actually knowledgeable ...)


  • Cuddyer currently projects as a Type A free agent.
  • Type A free agents aren't necessarily free; they can come with strings attached.
  • If the team with a Type A free agent offers him arbitration, they get two draft picks the following summer: A "sandwich pick" between the first and second rounds, and (if the signing team finished in the top half of the standings) the signing team's first round pick OR (if the signing team finished in the bottom half of the standings) the signing team's second round pick.
  • If the team doesn't offer arbitration, it gets nothing when the player jumps.

Let's run this through various scenarios, assuming that Cuddyer is a Type A at season's end:

  • If the Twins retain Cuddyer for the rest of the season and offer him arbitration and he leaves, the Twins will get two picks.
  • If the Twins trade Cuddyer, his new club offers arbitration and the Twins sign him back during the winter, the Twins lose a pick — under their current status, their second-round pick.
The Twins are said to want to keep Cuddyer in 2012 (and, most likely, beyond), and I believe those reports. (Whether that's a wise position depends on the contract terms.) That's a further complicating factor. If they were willing to see Cuddyer walk, the asking price now in a deal should be roughly equivalent to two high draft picks. But if they re-sign him, that take will be lessened by the loss of their second-round pick.

Think you've got all that? Good.  Now consider this:

The rules may change before winter. There was a push to eliminate free-agent compensation when the current labor deal was being negotiated, and it's not guaranteed to remain. Even if it does, the rating system is likely to change, as too many "Type A" free agents in recent years haven't really merited that status.

So ... what do the Twins do?

I say that (a) they don't actively shop him; (b) they set a high price to those teams that call — two premium prospects, plus the acquiring team picks up Cuddyer's remaining salary.

Any trade for less than that should involve a pledge not to offer Cuddyer arbitration.

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