By Declan Finn
The New York Mets made the first splash of free agency Monday, wasting no time in signing former Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year deal. The move is an early sign the Mets are going to make every effort to contend for a playoff spot next season, going against their recent thrifty past by adding money and talent to the roster.
The Mets desperately needed an outfielder and a shortstop this offseason, and now one of those positions have already been solved in early November.
"Michael is a tremendous addition to the middle of our lineup," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. "He is a proven offensive threat who also brings versatility in the field with the ability to play multiple positions."
He can play right field and first base, giving the Mets flexibility in the field, and brings a big bat to a lineup in desperate need of power and run production. Here is our inside look at the Cuddyer signing, as we examine the good, bad and our give our final take on the free agent addition.
The Mets sent a message to their fans and the rest of the league they are here to make a run at the playoff next year with the addition of Cuddyer to the lineup. It's a mesage Mets fans have been waiting years for. The Mets already have the pitching staff to contend, but they needed to address the offense if they were to be taken seriously as contenders. Signing Cuddyer does that, as he quickly gives the team a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
Cuddyer hit .332 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI in 49 games a season ago with the Rockies, missing most of the year with injury. The year before that, Cuddyer won the National League batting title with a .331 average in 130 games. He had 31 doubles, 20 home runs and 84 RBI that year, making the All-Star Game. He also was an all-star in 2011.
While the number of games missed last year could be a concern, Cuddyer played at least 101 games in the previous five seasons, and four times he reached at least 130 games, so he doesn't have an injury-plagued history.
The Mets now have a formidable outfield with Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares. Granderson should have a bounce-back season next year and Lagares just won a Gold Glove. With Cuddyer, Granderson and David Wright in the middle of the lineup, the Mets can scare a lot of teams, which hasn't been the case in a very long time.
Helping out Cuddyer's switch to New York is his friendship with Wright, as the two grew up together in Virginia.
The Mets will give up the 15th overall pick in the MLB Draft, a high price to pay for a soon-to-be 36-year old outfielder for just two years. Typically, getting a player of Cuddyer's age and value for just two years and $21 million would be considered a victory for the franchise. But in this case, the Mets are giving up a high draft pick for a two-year rental.
Cuddyer will make $8.5 million this season and $12.5 million the year after, according to reports, which isn't back-breaking money to hand out. Cuddyer passed on the Rockies qualifying offer, which would have paid him $15.3 million for this upcoming season. Since he signed with the Mets, the Rockies will get a first-round draft pick as compensation.
But there is no guarantee a first-round draft pick will pan out, especially for a team in win-now mode. Since 2000, the Mets have drafted six players in the first round that have gone on to have at least moderately successful major league careers, Aaron Heilman, David Wright, Scott Kazmir, Mike Pelfrey, Ike Davis and Matt Harvey. Of course, this upcoming draft could have another Wright or Harvey in it, and the Mets will have passed on a potential star for a guy who likely won't be here in three years.
There is also the fact Cuddyer played just 49 games last year. While his history says otherwise, there is the possibility Cuddyer has begun to break down at 35 years old. If Cuddyer doesn't play much for the Mets the next two years, this signing will be an obvious waste of time and money.
Give the Mets credit for jumping into the free agency market and making a splash for once. The Mets have been skittish at best about handing out contracts to free agents, drawing the ire of fans and media alike. So, this was an extremely positive sign the Mets are in playoffs or bust mode.
The Mets have the pitching to do it, now they have a major league caliber outfield, with two power hitters and a Gold Glover in center field. If Cuddyer simply stays healthy and plays like he did the past two years, the Mets are a ton better offensively. If Granderson has a bounce-back season and Lagares continues to improve his average and on-base percentage, the Mets will take the next step and make the postseason.
The work isn't done this offseason for the Mets, as they have to find a legitimate shortstop. But this move was a great way to kick off the winter. For once, the Mets made a bold move in signing Cuddyer and giving up a first-round draft pick for him.
The Mets hit a home run with this signing.