Rockies sign Michael Cuddyer to 3-year deal

The Rockies have been active so far this offseason, completing four trades that offered little to get excited about before things went quiet after the Winter Meetings. Friday, the club made the awaited big addition and more action could follow as the team added a right-handed bat and another outfielder inking Michael Cuddyer to a 3-year, $31.5 million contract. 

Cuddyer, conceivably, gives the Rockies the flexibility to trade outfielder Seth Smith, presumedly for an upgrade at second base or a starting pitcher. He is the biggest free agent signing the Rockies have made since adding Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton for an exorbitant amount of money in 2000. Despite being burned before in free agency, albeit a decade ago, the Rockies decided they could add a piece to their club after General Manager Dan O'Dowd dumped Huston Street, Ian Stewart, and most importantly their salaries on other teams. 

Much of the talk around the Rockies this offseason has involved changing the clubhouse atmosphere and O'Dowd continues to back up that talk. Not only has he jettisoned players like Stewart, Chris Iannetta, and Ty Wigginton, but he's continued to bring in veterans. The club signed Cuddyer, 32, just days after the club officially came to an agreement with Ramon Hernandez. Bringing in multiple veterans in lieu of younger players with upside is certainly an interesting strategy for a team that lost 89 games last season. 

Cuddyer is expected to be lineup protection for Rockies cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki, but it's unclear that he's truly a better option against right-handed pitching than Seth Smith. Cuddyer's career line against right-handed pitching is .264/.326/.433, which pales in comparison to Smith's .290/.364/.518. Moving Smith in favor of Cuddyer could be a highly questionable move as the Rockies finished 4th last season with Smith posting a 112 OPS+ and Cuddyer's career OPS+ is 111. He'll do damage against left-handed pitching (.290/.378/.491), but he's now too expensive to platoon. 

The signing could be even more questionable if the Rockies intend to use Cuddyer as an infielder, something that's been mentioned. He has started 214 games at second base and third base in his career, though he's mostly played outfield the last few years. His bat could carry either position easily, but the glove is another story. 

Cuddyer has definitely been a productive player over the past three years as he's amassed a 117 OPS+ over his last 449 games. Still, given the current standing of the team, the money, the length of the contract, the presence of Smith, and the fact that Cuddyer turns 33-years-old before Opening Day, the signing doesn't come without concern. Cuddyer might return the value of the contract to the Rockies, but the juice is unlikely to be worth the squeeze if this club can't get back to the playoffs. 

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