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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The end of an Era

Well Michael Cuddyer’s tenure in Minnesota is over. After 11 seasons with the club that drafted him, he signed a 3 year $31 million pact with the Rockies. While Cuddyer’s departure will undoubtedly sadden many Twins fans; his leaving will ultimately leave the organization in a better place than if he stayed.

There is no doubt that the Rockies over paid for Cuddyer. Though he has served as a model of consistency for the Twins in a lineup that has been frequently bitten by the injury bug, his wage demands were unrealistic for an organization whose clubhouse is aggressively pursuing a philosophy of returning the club to competitiveness immediately in 2012 rather then rebuilding altogether.

Twins fans, who have often begrudged their own brass for not being aggressive enough in the free-agent market, cannot possibly voice those complaints during the beginning of Terry Ryan’s second stint as the club’s GM. In his first 6 weeks Ryan has strengthened the Twins anemic offense by signing Ryan Doumit for 1 year $3 million, sured up a leaky middle infield by signing Jamey Carroll to a 2 year $6.5 million contract and now adding right handed power and an immediate replacement for Cuddyer in Willingham, locking him up through the 2014 season for $21 million, a $9 million saving on Cuddyer and giving the Twins two supplemental draft picks as compensation for Cuddyer signing with the Rockies. For an organization that does not have consistent strength throughout its farm system, having 5 picks (6 if Jason Kubel departs) in the first 60 is exactly what the organization needs.

From a statistical standpoint Willingham and Cuddyer are almost identical. Willingham owns a .361 career OBP compared to Cuddyer’s .343 and indeed, Willingham own slight advantages in SLG and OPS throughout his career. Willingham owns a significant advantage in Isolated power, his career ISO of .214 bettering Cuddyer’s .180, Parker Hagerman’s article summed up exactly why Willingham may be ideally suited to Target field’s left field power ally, as opposed to Cuddyer’s tendency to spread the ball around the field. Willingham is the logical choice for the Twins.

With the Twins payroll projected to sit at around $100 million is bringing Kubel back the right move? While there is major uncertainty going forward surrounding the health of the M&M boys the Twins pitching depth seems to be the biggest remaining void on the 40 man roster. Names that have been thrown around as additions to the rotation are Jeff Francis and Joel Pineiro, while the bullpen needs to be completely revamped after the Twins non-tendered Jose Mijares and lost Joe Nathan to the Rangers.

Looking at Jeff Francis major league stats paint an interesting picture. Francis owns a career ERA of 4.78, a career WHIP of 1.43, walks 2.8/9 innings and struck out only 4.5 batters/9 innings last season at Kansas City. Pineiro walks and strikes out a similar amount, but has a slight advantage in career ERA 4.41 and WHIP 1.35. Pineiro had a miserable 2011, logging a 5.13 ERA but being subject to an above average BAbip of .324 and an ERA+ of only 74. In his previous 2 seasons with the Cardinals and the Angels, Pineiro combined for an ERA of 3.67 and a WHIP of 1.19 while logging 366.1 innings compared to Francis’ ERA of 5.00 and WHIP of 1.42 over the same seasons. While Francis spent one of those seasons at home run Mecca Coors field, Pineiro’s ground ball style and potential change of scenery to Target Field may put him in line for a rebound year and make him a solid contributor to the Twins 2012 rotation should they decide to pursue him.

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