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.
Through 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?