The Rockies have long coveted free agent Michael Cuddyer. They cleared money this offseason that could be used to sign the veteran outfielder. And their chances of signing Cuddyer improved when the Twins signed free agent outfielder Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million deal.
So it was no surprised when Cuddyer agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract Dec. 16.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd has said he will not repeat the mistakes of a year ago, when he signed fringe free agents like Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez. It's sign a free agent capable of making an impact -- or nothing.
Cuddyer could play left field for the Rockies and bat fifth, giving them a much needed right-handed bat with power and lengthening the lineup by dropping left-handed hitting Todd Helton to sixth in the order. Cuddyer also can play right field and both corner infield positions, and his acquisition would make it more likely the Rockies would trade outfielder Seth Smith in a deal for a starting pitcher or second baseman.
The Rockies and Braves have discussed a trade that would send Smith to Atlanta in return for Martin Prado, whom the Rockies would put at second base, but the teams haven't agreed on mutual value to finalize any deal.
Cuddyer turns 33 in March. He hit .284 last season with 20 homers and 70 RBI, a .346 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage. Those numbers are close to his career figures -- .272 average, .343 on-base percentage and .451 slugging percentage.
The Rockies also value Cuddyer for his clubhouse influence. Coming off their disappointing 73-89 finish, O'Dowd is trying to construct a team that will be more accountable to each other and more oriented to the greater good. Cuddyer, who has spent his entire career in the Twins organization, is a plus in that area.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said, "I think our lineup is one of the better ones in the National League, but it would be huge to get another bat. I have heard nothing but good things about Cuddyer."
The Twins reportedly offered Cuddyer $24 million for three years.
The Rockies freed up $7 million with the trade of reliever Huston Street to the Padres and are off the hook for the roughly $2 million third baseman Ian Stewart will make after trading him to the Cubs. The Rockies also saved $2 million by trading Wigginton to the Phillies.
Some of that savings will go to the increased salaries of Smith and center fielder Dexter Fowler, both eligible for arbitration for the first time with Smith expected to sign for about $2.6 million and Fowler for $2 million. Ty Colvin and DJ LeMahieu, acquired from the Cubs for Stewart, are low-cost players not eligible for arbitration.
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