|Michael Cuddyer has been a Swiss Army knife of|
a defensive player over the years for Minnesota.
There were conflicting reports Tuesday night that the Twins had (or had not) reached agreement with Josh Willingham, like Cuddyer a right-handed hitting corner outfielder. The Twins typically don't acknowledge a signing until all details are complete, including a player physical, but this one was particularly touchy because it is generally believed that signing Willingham means not signing Cuddyer.
Willingham offers advantages and disadvantages to Cuddyer. He's a better hitter than Cuddyer (although his superiority has been masked over his career by the difficult environments he's had for home parks). He's less flexible defensively. And he's an unfamiliar personality in the clubhouse.
I'm wary of Willingham's lack of experience in right field or first base, the two positions at which Cuddyer was most often deployed. I don't know what Plan B at first base will be if Cuddyer's not on the roster, and Justin Morneau has needed a Plan B for significant parts of the past three seasons.
Willingham has spent much of his career in left field, and he's not particularly good there. He would figure to play right in Minnesota, and that sounds like an invitation to triples. But it has to be acknowledged that right field was something of a hidden defensive disaster for the Twins last season; neither Cuddyer nor fellow free agent Jason Kubel covered much ground. Their problems got less attention than those in the infield, but they were real nevertheless.
The Twins may not be making themselves much worse defensively by putting Willingham in right. But improvement ought to be the goal.