While many were fawning over the acquisition of Michael Cuddyer during the past offseason, someone wrote this:

So, we’re left rooting for Cuddyer to ignore Father Time and remain productive, ignore Mother Nature and stay healthy, ignore the ghost of outfield Lucas Duda and be passable defensively all while not being swayed in moving from the hitter’s paradise of Coors Field to the neutrality of Citi Field.

What could possibly go wrong here?

Cuddyer’s outfield play has not been a problem. Both DRS and UZR show him slightly negative but nowhere near Duda level. But his offense has been even worse than the pessimistic computer projections and while he’s avoided the DL up until now, it’s no worse than even money that he’ll be put there before the end of the month.

Michael CuddyerThrough the third week of July, he’s delivered a 0.1 fWAR. He’s essentially been a replacement player through 314 PA. For that production the Mets are paying $8.5 million this year and are on the hook for $12.5 million in 2016. And on top of that, the Mets surrendered their first-round pick this year.

In a year where all four of Sandy Alderson’s previous first-round picks are performing well, giving up a chance to add another first-rounder to the system in order to get replacement-level performance is a kick in the pants. And with the payroll constraints that the team operates with, the contract really is a killer.

It was easy to see the Cuddyer signing being a disaster and it has been every bit as bad as feared.

The disgusting thing is that it didn’t have to be this way. The Mets had two potential holes to fill this past offseason in LF and SS and they picked the wrong one. In opting to keep their September 2015 SS (who no longer plays the position) and import a new LF, Alderson swung for the fences and missed. His plan was to have guys in SS and LF who made up for any defensive shortcomings with a better than average bat. And as we all know, offense has been the major problem with the 2015 team.

So much venom is directed towards Alderson because of his alleged preference for those who walk. Lip service is given towards those who produce a high OBP yet when push comes to shove, Alderson sent a guy out of town who delivered a .392 OBP down the stretch last year and kept the guy who had a .306 OBP during his hot stretch to end the year and who carries a .282 OBP in 350 PA this season.

How different would the 2015 Mets be if they kept their down the stretch LF and didn’t sign Cuddyer? Matt den Dekker, in a season where he got traded to another team and spent most of the year in the minors, has, in his brief time in the majors, posted a higher OPS than Cuddyer. And that’s with a .179 BABIP. Since he posted BABIP numbers of .324 and .322 the past two years with the Mets, we can see that being out of character and a small sample fluke. ZiPS projects him to have a .327 mark the rest of the way while Steamer sees a .308 BABIP going forward.

Everyone complains about Curtis Granderson leading off. If den Dekker was on the squad, that’s the position he’d occupy and Granderson would be free to hit in the middle of the order. Also, Granderson would have been in left, with den Dekker in right field, a move that would have strengthened the defense, too.

Or, forget den Dekker. What if instead of signing Cuddyer, the Mets imported Nori Aoki? For fewer dollars and no draft pick compensation, the Mets would have still been in much better shape. Chris Denorfia would have been a better acquisition, too. The bottom line is that even if importing a LF had to be the course of action, Alderson failed miserably.

No matter who you are or what you do, it’s good to have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. One of Alderson’s strengths in his time with the Mets is to hit on first-round picks. Does anyone feel like one of his strengths is signing free agents to multi-year deals? So, why would you sacrifice a strength for the chance to roll the dice in an area which might be described as a weakness?

The Cuddyer signing was a gamble that did not pay off. In a vacuum, that’s not the end of the world. Not all of your moves are going to be home runs. But the Cuddyer signing was a high-risk move that was completely unnecessary. There was an internal solution available and less risky free agent acquisitions that were never considered.

While the offense struggles in mid-July, the key piece added during the offseason has been a complete bust. It’s one thing to consider when the fan base is demanding action right now. Should we be eager for Alderson to execute a trade when his talent judgment has been so poor with MLB acquisitions?

Or would we just be better off if he promoted from within?

23 comments on “The Michael Cuddyer decision and LF moving forward

  • RobD

    With ,I feel, any Trade Deadline upgrades probably cost one of our elite arms, the Left fielder in Binghamon is our best option. Lets not give up the future for a stop gap fix, Conforto is as viable as anything out there.

    • holmer

      If you’re looking for a big acquisition, yes, one of the elite arms would have to go but the Mets needs are more modest than that as the offense is woefully underperforming and a less splashy upgrade would make the Mets a better team without giving up one of the elite arms. The elite arms in New York at this time are the ticket to success and I wouldn’t sacrifice any of them unless you are talking about Trout, Stanton, or Harper.

      • RobD

        My take exactly. Now lets sign Jason Heyward this offseason and our outfield is set for years. Love his defense and his bat finally seems to have recovered from that gruesome shot to his jaw,

  • David Groveman

    Mets will be calling up someone to cover for Cuddyer. If it is Conforto he will have a chance to lock the position down. If it is Nimmo, less logical, he would likely bounce back to the minors regardless. Nimmo needs some time in AAA.

    I also believe that we will see Zach Lutz and Dilson Herrera again soon. I seriously wish Herrera could play SS.

  • Kevin Buckley

    This really isn’t fair to Alderson. Last year we had a big problem in LF because of the Chris Young signing. By no means was MDD performing like a permanent solution. The Cuddyer signing brought in a NL BA champion only two years removed. Cuddyer was also a close friend of David Wright. First round draft picks don’t carry with them a guarantee of success, so why not? The signing was modest by today’s expensive standards and was for only two years.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • James Preller

      I confess: I didn’t hate the Cuddyer signing at the time and I still don’t. Obviously, it has not worked out. To me, the idea of doing nothing — of pretending that some sort of platoon of Mayberry and the beloved MdD, or Kirkkkkk — is an easy thing to write about at this point, but I appreciated that SA tried to add a professional bat to the roster.

      • Brian Joura

        Some of us were writing about den Dekker being the LF long before July 23

    • Brian Joura

      “By no means was MDD performing like a permanent solution”

      Yep, there was no use for a guy with a .766 OPS, none whatsoever

  • Eraff

    I hated the signing, and we now all agree it’s a very specific failure. However, look at the general approach— a Team with Dominant Pitching and very poor defense and no team speed or offensive creators. Forget the fact that the offensive buildout was a perfection laden pipe dream…. there is either ignorance or apathy toward addressing baseball as it’s played in 2015.

    I do not grasp the embrace of defensive situational baseball—shifts, positioning, etc— while totally ignoring the same situations on the offensive side of the game. They do not have the personnel or the approach to be successful in 2015.

    They’re playing 2015 defense without defensive players….and they are playing 1998 offense without power.

    Mind Blow!!!!!

  • Chris F

    The long and short of your essay is simple as I read it: Alderson and company do not do a solid job at player assessment, one of the critical things a GM must possess. So far his only success whatsoever appears to be trading stars for prospects. I wouldn’t call the Wheeler acquisition some sort of blowout victory for the Mets, but the Dickey trade was clearly like a nice deal. His FA picks have been terrible. Im less bully on the draft picks. I think Conforto is the only sure bet to make the Show. I don’t have much belief in Cechhini or Nimmo, and Dom Smith is too young to judge, especially if he becomes too fat to be athletic. He has over-valued Mets players as potential trade pieces to a fault.

    To the matter at hand. I think you are right to be concerned that Alderson’s record should raise alarm bells and make us all skeptical he could make a solid trade. In fact, with you shining the light on this issue so brightly, I think the less moves he makes by trades the better we are. I think there is a ground swell for Conforto, maybe the FO will listen.

    • Brian Joura

      Zack Wheeler has already been a strong return for two months of Beltran and he still has virtually his entire MLB career ahead of him.

      Cecchini has the best wOBA and wRC+ of any 21 year old in the Eastern League and is ranked 10th overall in the league in those metrics. For a guy who might be able to play SS in the majors that’s pretty impressive. Dominic Smith ranks 10th in the Florida State League. Brandon Nimmo just received a top 50 prospect ranking by BA. I just don’t see how you look at that trio and not be encouraged. Those guys are a big reason why Keith Law yesterday ranked the Mets’ farm system fourth overall.

      • Chris F

        Its a long haul from prospect to being a big leaguer thats how. There are no trophies for best farm system. Id trade any of those three for MLB talent. I also saw Montero go from a top prospect to off the radar…

        • Brian Joura

          The only reason he’s off the radar is because he got hurt.

          • Chris F

            Only?

            • Brian Joura

              He’d have been in the rotation once they finally gave up on Gee in mid June if he was healthy.

  • Larry Smith

    I have written before that I feel the only reason Colorado gave Cuddyer the Qualifying Offer was that they had inside info that he was going to refuse it and sign with the Mets. This gave the Rockies a free supplemental 1st round pick.
    How different might things have gone if Alderson called their bluff and let Cuddyer accept the Colorado offer.
    Since that club already had too many OFers it would not have surprised me for them to trade Cuddyer to the Mets for a grade B prospect and pay $3 to $5 million of his $15 million deal. The Mets would pay less for the player with a shorter commitment in years and would have retained the 1st round pick.

    • Peter Hyatt

      Interesting, Larry.

  • Metsense

    Let’s look at the LF situation going forward like the article title suggests. Cuddyer’s 303/380/683 belongs on the bench as a reserve OF/1B. He is playing hurt so it would be impractical to expect improvement until he gets healthy. In order to maximize Cuddyer going forward he should therefore be disabled until healthy. The bench is so weak that a Kirk/Mayberry platoon has not been better than an unhealthy Cuddyer. The Mets need a leftfielder *today*.
    A recent Fangraphs article by Sullivan estimated that a reasonable production expectation from Conforti is 92 OPS+ based on the author’s research. The Mets could go outside of the organization and get a rental player that is above a 120 OPS+ in Parra, Zobrist, Venable or Upton. Moving forward then, I would get a rental player for the remainder of 2015, get Cuddyer healthy so he can be a bench asset for the late summer playoff drive, and give Conforto the opportunity to replace Cuddyer in the Spring of 2016. Cuddyer is an expensive mistake so the Mets should adjust accordingly.

    • John

      I don’t have an issue with getting a rental. Question is what will the rent be.

  • Patrick Albanesius

    The MDD love affair continues. The Cuddyer signing so far as been a disaster, however I believe there is room for this signing to look decent in the end. Kind of like the Bartolo Colon signing. Anderson probably new the risks, but wanted to ensure a veteran outfielder while showing the fans he can spend money. Those are idiotic reasons to sign someone, but they are basically the same reasons he signed Colon, and it worked out Ok all things considered.

    However, Cuddyer needs to hit the DL immediately, and what is the harm in brining up Conforto? Even if he struggles mightily, send him down to Triple-A, and he’s still getting a promotion out of the whole thing. He doesn’t need to prove much more in Double-A anyway, so why are we wasting time?

  • Peter Hyatt

    The statement that Michael Cuddyer signing was a high risk move that was completely unnecessary says it all.

    The smug egotistical Alderson invites fans to despise him, even if it is owners tying his hands.

    Who believes that Terry Collins makes the lineup?

    The Mets play the contract and not the player, nor even the hot hand.

    Cuddyer had a career great year in Colorado’s thin atmosphere followed by an injury shortened season. Even to return to pre-Colorado numbers, given his age, and recent history of injuries, was asking too much.

    Question:

    How is it that we cannot sue our batting coach for malpractice?

    His job appears secure in spite of being about as low as batting can go.

  • TexasGusCC

    LOL, when I brought up MDD earlier this year, I was told to stop crying over a guy that hasn’t hit and is 27 years old. But, Terry needed LOOGYs, many of them.

  • John

    denDekker is hitting .211. He swings and misses way too much. I was not a fan of the Cuddyer signing just because of his age. But I understood it. He was a veteran middle of the order guy when there weren’t many available. You can arugue there were other veterans who were better choices. Bit sorry, denDekker is no more a major league hitter than Kirk is.

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