Three short weeks ago, Michael Cuddyer was being left for dead. He didn’t look particularly good at the plate, and the results backed that up – through May 18th, Cuddyer was hitting .239/.295/.355 in 37 games. The two-year contract he signed during the offseason where the Mets surrendered a first-round draft pick was looking worse and worse each game.
In the 12 games Cuddyer has played since, he has raked to the tune of a .372/.449/.581 line, raising his season numbers to a much more respectable .271/.333/.409. The power and on-base numbers are slightly below the 36-year-old’s career numbers, but they are trending in the right direction.
At first glance, Cuddyer’s hitting line may appear to be lackluster, but when you take into account that the average left fielder in Major League Baseball is hitting .250/.312/.393, we see that Cuddyer has performed six percent better offensively than average at his position. Throughout the course of 600 plate appearances, Cuddyer is on pace to create 10 more runs than the league average left fielder. We know that those 10 runs roughly correlates to one win during the course of the season.
The danger of extrapolating like this, of course, is that it assumes Cuddyer will continue to produce at the same level – for better or worse – as he has through the first part of the season. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that that does hold true.
Does this additional win contributed by Cuddyer make the $21 million he received this offseason worth it? With the cost of one win above replacement on the open market being in the range of $5-9 million, depending on your source, the answer appears for now to be yes. Remember that the average player is worth about two wins above replacement, pegging Cuddyer’s projected value as three WAR this season.
The question of surrendering the 15th overall draft pick being worth it largely comes down to how each individual’s subjective value of the pick. In signing Cuddyer, the Mets firmly planted themselves in win-now mode, which means the pick takes on less value in their mind. Prospect-enamored fans might point to that and balk at giving up a minor league piece for a veteran on the downside of his career.
One thing is certain, and is that the Mets are a team desperately in need of offense from wherever they can get it from. Entering this season, Cuddyer was going to be relied on to be a big part of the team’s offense, and he got out of the gate slow. That he’s begun to pick it up over the past two weeks should help, but the Mets are going to need a lot more than just him.
All stats current as of June 4th and are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.
Joe Vasile is the Assistant GM and Voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League.