Welcome to the inaugural edition of Offseason Musings, RotoExperts’ MLB Hot Stove news and analysis column. Throughout the Hot Stove season, we’ll look at the latest free agent player signings, trades and trade rumors and how they will affect the Fantasy value of the players involved. It’s never too early to begin your preparation for the 2015 Fantasy Baseball season, and this is where you can start gathering the intelligence that you’ll need to make wise draft day decisions. The decision to write this first edition was prompted by the first major free agent signing of the offseason, so that’s where we’ll begin today.
The NY Mets Sign OF/1B Michael Cuddyer
The Mets announced the signing of Michael Cuddyer to a two-year $21M contract that will also cost the Mets the 15th pick in next year’s amateur draft. In general terms, this is seen as a good baseball move, as Cuddyer has a solid reputation as a good clubhouse and team guy. Cuddyer is also good friends with team captain David Wright and he’s been a good hitter for the larger portion of his career. From a Fantasy perspective, though, this may not be a great move for Cuddyer, who has clearly enjoyed a resurgence hitting in the friendly confines of Coors Field over the past few seasons. However, Citi Field did play better for right-handed power after the fences were moved in back in 2011, and work has begun to move the fences in yet again for the 2015 season, which may lessen the blow to Cuddyer’s Isolated Power with the move to NY.
Overall, Cuddyer put up a .307/.362/.525 line over the last three seasons as a member of the Colorado Rockies. His home/road splits tell a familiar narrative normally associated with Rockies players; it’s no surprise that his home numbers (.329/.393/.591 in 555 PA) are considerably better than his road numbers (.286/.332/.463 in 584 PA). Even so, Cuddyer is a very productive .280 hitter with above average power, who instantly becomes the best hitting outfielder on the Mets. However, aside from the drop in average we’re likely to see from Cuddyer, there are two other concerns about the move to NY.
First, and more of a baseball concern than a Fantasy issue, is that Cuddyer is a defensive liability in the outfield. His overall defensive metrics put him somewhere between Manny Ramirez and Ryan Howard in terms of runs allowed etc. That’s, ummm, not good. Fortunately, we don’t care about defense in Fantasy, except that it might affect the way the Mets use him. He could play some first base, especially against lefties, whom Lucas Duda seems unable to figure out at all. But the Mets learned that Duda does best without the threat of losing his job hanging over his head, so Cuddyer will probably play left field, where they need a steady presence, something Cuddyer might be able to give them.
I am deliberately saying “might” because of concern number two – health. Cuddyer has a long, long injury history dating back to his early career with the Minnesota Twins. Over the last three seasons he managed to play just 280 games, or about 58 percent of the schedule. He reached the 500 PA plateau exactly once in the last three seasons. This, of course, is a major concern to the Fantasy community, especially with Cuddyer playing primarily in the outfield, where the need to run and the presence of walls to run into and players to collide with is much more of a problem. If he can’t stay on the field, then he can’t be of much help to Fantasy owners.
So, Cuddyer still has the hitting capability to be a Top 30 outfielder in Fantasy but his health history makes him a high risk draft choice regardless of when he is picked. The shorter fences at Citi Field could help preserve some of his power numbers and he’s still an above average hitter, even as he enters his age 36 season. His overall ranking is likely to be somewhere just inside the Top 150, making him a Round 12 (approx.) draft pick in 12-team leagues heading into the 2015 season. It would be nice to see the Mets make him just the first salvo in an attempt to beef up the roster, but given their spotty recent history with signing and trades, that may be wishful thinking at this point. We’ll explore the rumor mill surrounding the Mets possible future moves and the rest of MLB in the next edition of Offseason Musings.