It sounds like the Phillies are determined to sign Michael Cuddyer, though I’m sure at some point, Cuddyer’s agent, Casey Close, will ask the Twins to make their final offer.
Hypothetically, let’s say the Phillies make a three-year, $35 million offer with an option for a fourth year. My gut tells me this is the type of contract Cuddyer will ultimately sign. He can make $11 million per year (a raise from his $10.5 million salary this year), and the option could be for another $11 million with a $2 million buyout.
Keep in mind, Cuddyer’s camp reached out to the Twins last offseason hoping to work out a contract extension. The Twins weren’t interested at the time. In July, when the Twins finally made an offer, it was for two years, $16 million. So Cuddyer could be forgiven if he simply turned his back on the Twins at this point.
If he knows he can get 3/35 from the Phillies -- again, hypothetically -- why would he take something similar from the Twins? Obviously, the Twins are the only team Cuddyer has known and he’s entrenched in this community, but when Bodog released its 2012 World Series odds last week, the Phillies were 4-to-1 favorites. The Twins were 35-to-1.
At that point, the Twins might have to outbid Philadelphia (or Boston, if the Red Sox get into the mix). All of those teams know they’d be taking on a lot of risk for a player who turns 33 in March and will be 35 in the final guaranteed year of this contract.
That’s why I believe if Philadelphia makes an offer in that 3/35 range, this is over. The Twins will wish Cuddyer well and collect two draft picks for losing a Type A free agent.
Unless the new CBA changes the rules -- unlikely for this year’s free agent class -- the Twins would receive the Phillies’ first-round pick next year (No. 31 overall) and another pick soon after between the first and second rounds. Remember, the Twins have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, so this would give them four of the first 60-65 picks, as they continue trying to bolster their farm system.
How would they replace Cuddyer?
They could turn their attention to re-signing Jason Kubel. They’d miss Cuddyer’s righthanded bat -- especially after trading Delmon Young to Detroit -- but when they’re healthy, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Kubel have proven they can thrive in the 3-4-5 spots.
After Kubel, the free agent corner outfield options start to look a little thin (Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, etc.). In house, the Twins have Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson, but both need more time at Triple-A. Some think the weak free agent market will lead to a robust trade market, and maybe the Twins could find a cheaper solution for right field, allowing them to spend more on starting pitching.
Quick thought: If the Phillies sign Cuddyer, maybe they’d make John Mayberry available in a trade. The righthanded hitter batted .273/.341/.513 last year at age 27, while making just $414,000, and cut down dramatically on his strikeout rate. His OPS+, which factors in league and park averages, was 130 (Cuddyer’s was 121), and Mayberry has played all three outfield positions.
Life will go on for the Twins if Cuddyer leaves. They'd miss his clubhouse presence and versatility immensely, but they must have known that during the season, when their best offer was for about half of what Cuddyer is likely to get on the free agent market.