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November 11, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Cuddyer Quashes Qualifying Offer

by R.J. Anderson and J.P. Breen

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jeremy McBryde; designated OF-L Roger Kieschnick for assignment. [11/7]

Jerry Dipoto adds his third pitcher of the offseason. Unlike Cesar Ramos and Nick Tropeano, who each had previous big-league experience, McBryde is (or will be) a complete newb to The Show. Despite compiling impressive minor-league statistics over the years, McBryde never received a look with the Padres or A's—two orgs that, it must be noted, know how to find cheap middle relief. Now he'll take his low-to-mid-90s fastball and slider combination to another team located in California, hoping in turn for a shot. Given that McBryde is now on the 40-man roster, there's a fair chance it happens. —R.J. Anderson

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed OF-R Chris Young to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million deal with nearly $4 million in incentives. [11/8]

That didn't take long. Young auditioned with the Yankees last season, hitting .282/.354/.521 in 79 plate appearance. Brian Cashman liked what he saw enough to give Young his second one-year deal with a New York-based club in the past year—although Cashman undoubtedly hopes Young continues to play like he did in pinstripes, rather than across town with the Mets. Odds are, Young will be somewhere in between—some power, some walks, some strikeouts, and a lot of infield flies. Still, he gives the Yankees cheap right-handed sock in a lefty-heavy outfield. Signing Young isn't a winter-defining move for Cashman, but it's a decent start to the offseason. —R.J. Anderson

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed OF-R Michael Cuddyer to a two-year deal worth $21 million. [11/10]

The Mets exchange the 15th pick in next June's draft for Cuddyer qualifying offer. It's an interesting decision, in large part because Sandy Alderson could position his team as a legitimate contender between now and April. At the same time the future is untold, and the difference between a defensible and indefensible signing hinges on the Mets' forthcoming moves—like, say, acquiring an upgrade at shortstop, be it Troy Tulowitzki or someone else.

Cuddyer is a polarizing player, largely due to the limited appeal of his game. He can hit, there's no doubting that; during his three seasons in Colorado, he batted .307/.362/.525 while offering production against lefties and righties. Unfortunately, almost everything else is in question. Cuddyer doesn't field well, and ought to be limited to a corner-outfield spot—although there's a case to be made that he should take some reps away from Lucas Duda at first base when the Mets face a left-handed starter. Then there's the matter of durability and age. Cuddyer has averaged fewer than 400 plate appearances in the past three seasons, and turns 36 in March.

In summary: Cuddyer would ideally be younger, more athletic, able to play a premium defensive position, and healthier. Oh, and he wouldn't cost a draft pick to sign. (Of course he wouldn't be available for $21 million over two years were all that the case, but that's for another time.)

Nonetheless, the Mets think Cuddyer can help them and they might be right. Should Alderson make a few more additions before spring rolls around—and remember, the Mets could now add another player tabbed with a qualifying offer while sacrificing just a second-round pick—he could run out a quality lineup and rotation. Given the roster's potential and the wealth of their farm system, there's a fair chance they won't miss the 15th pick as they hunt their first postseason appearance since 2006. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Michael Cuddyer

It should go without saying that Cuddyer’s fantasy value will decrease outside of Coors. His ISO away from the altitude was merely .136 in 2014 and .174 in 2013; however, we must be careful not to overstate the importance of leaving Colorado. He still hit .311/.367/.485 and .282/.316/.418 in away games the past two seasons, respectively. Worst-case scenario, that’s roughly what Torii Hunter did last year—.286/.319/.446 —and he was essentially a top-30 outfielder in ESPN leagues. Furthermore, Citi Field has played as a homer-friendly park for right-handed hitters since they adjusted the fences. If the fences are brought in even more, the concerns about his home ballpark wane even further.


Instead of focusing on the road/home splits, fantasy owners would be wise to focus on the injury history and the fact that he’ll be 36 years old next season. Emma Span highlighted Cuddyer’s checkered injury past on Twitter:



He’s reached the 500 PA threshold once in the past three seasons, and his age isn’t improving. Only two players (David Ortiz and Hunter) who were 36 or older ranked in the top-60 for OPS in 2014. That ain’t a pretty picture. I’m not sure we should be questioning whether Cuddyer can hit, if healthy. Given his age and history, it’s the latter part of the equation that should make owners’ knees quake in fear.


Eric Young Jr.

Given the presence of Lagares and Granderson on the roster, I’m working under the assumption that Cuddyer will primarily play left field for the Mets. Although the club doesn’t already have an everyday left fielder, Young did start 65 games there last season. The addition of Cuddyer should result in decreased playing time for the 29-year-old speedster unless the Mets attempt to shoehorn him into a different position.


Of course, as mentioned above, fantasy owners should probably expect Cuddyer to miss some time due to injury. Matt den Dekker is another candidate to steal some playing time in left should Cuddyer land on the disabled list, but as it currently stands, Young would be the direct beneficiary. The problem, however, is that he’s not someone to target until the hypothetical opening for playing time has occurred, as he will do little good sitting on your fantasy squad’s bench. Those valuable positions are better utilized on someone with much higher upside or even a platoon guy or two, even if the stolen bases are attractive on paper. —J.P. Breen

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
J.P. Breen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see J.P.'s other articles. You can contact J.P. by clicking here

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