Michael Cuddyer is no stranger to being in the middle of success. In six of his 11 seasons as an outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, he was on a team that finished first in it’s division, surrounded by incredible talents from Justin Morneau, to Joe Mauer and Tori Hunter.
Those were days when all four men were in the prime of their careers; the Twins were a perennial playoff contender year-in and year-out, with only one Achilles heal: the New York Yankees. Cuddyer was in the middle of most of that success. In 2006 he was second on the team in RBI with 109, then after two injury-riddled years, he led the Twins in home runs with 32, and was third in RBI with 94 in 2009.
Those days seem long ago, yet the New York Mets hope that the soon-to-be 36-year-old Cuddyer can channel some of that mid-2000s magic he once had.
Potential Mets lineup
Juan Lagares CF
David Wright 3B
Lucas Duda 1B
Michael Cuddyer LF
Travis d’Arnaud C
Wilmer Flores SS
Above is the Mets potential line-up. More than likely Cuddyer will hit behind David Wright, or Lucas Duda, in case manager Terry Collins wants to split the right-handed hitters apart, and, he will likely bat in front of Curtis Granderson. On the surface the Mets line-up is a mix of youth and old age; they don’t have a big time power hitter in the lineup. This is a team where perfection is a must if the team is to manufacture runs on a consistent basis.
Therefore Cuddyer’s success to the Mets lineup will be paramount this year. They need him to produce and lengthen the lineup in every way possible. That includes taking pressure off of David Wright, by providing that right-handed pop that the Mets have been searching for for years.
Wright really struggled last season as he battled injuries and little-to-no help in the lineup. Result, the Mets captain had the worst year of his career, belting only eight homers and driving in 63.
When Wright was at his best early in his career, he had Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado protecting him in the lineup. That hasn’t been the case the past few years, and it is fair to say that the lack of reliable hitters around Wright has contributed more to his struggles than the fences of Citi Field.
Thus begs the question: can the Mets rely on Cuddyer for a full season?
When healthy, Cuddyer is a steady middle of the order presence. Two years ago he hit .331 in 130 games for the Rockies and gave them the pop they needed when either Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki missed time. Not to mention Cuddyer’s veteran leadership will also take another load off Wright’s shoulders, giving him an alley in the clubhouse.
However, in spite of putting up impressive numbers, (10 home runs and a .332 avg.), last season, Cuddyer only played in 49 games due to a number of injuries. He missed seven weeks with right and left hamstring injuries, and ten weeks with a fractured shoulder, proving that his inability to say on the field is a major concern. Add to the fact he hasn’t played in 150 games since 2010 and has only played in 130 games only twice since 2011.
As I said before, the Mets have been searching for right-handed power for years. They were wrong on Jason Bay and wrong on Mosies Alou before that. Both players also struggled with injuries. Who is to say Cuddyer will avoid that distinction?
One can eve say Duda and Granderson are major pieces to this puzzle too, but both have their own questions coming into 2015. If both produce it surely will make Cuddyer’s workload a little less, but there is a reason the Mets are paying him $21 million over the next two years.
Cuddyer is a good signing, however not one that will put the Mets over the top into postseason contention. If healthy, he will put up good numbers in the .275 - .290 range with 15-20 home runs and 80-something RBI. Those are numbers the Mets can hope for from a 36-year old. I am not sure if the Mets can rely on Cuddyer staying healthy for 130 games this year, therefore adding another bat at some point this year is a must for the front office.