The Mariners have shown interest in Michael Cuddyer. He’s a solid-hitting, bad defending player that is bad at a lot of different positions. So he sucks on defense, but he is versatile at sucking.
Cuddyer is going to be in his age 33 season next year and is seeking a three-year, $30 million contract.
In the past four seasons Cuddyer has alternated seasons being a player who was nearly, or an actual three-win player, or a player worth less than one win, or who played a replacement level. Part of that is because he’s been worth about negative 30 runs on defense in those four years. Part of that, though, is because he’s been a league average hitter in both those seasons also (or below league average).
A league average hitter who players league average defense has a lot of value, but that value depletes quickly when a player can’t defend well at any position.
Of all of the variety of basketball knowledge that I have that is barely useful now that the Sonics are in Oklahoma City, one saying that sticks in my mind:
“You’re only as good as the best player you can defend.”
This is why Flip Murray was never any kind of regular in the NBA. He never started more than 27 games in a season because he played defense the way that 7 year olds play defense in soccer. He also hasn’t been a regular because he saw about as many shots he didn’t like as Sam Hurd saw as Vin Baker saw happy hour burger and beer specials he didn’t like, but that’s beside the point.
The point is though, that even though Murray played point guard (or two guard depending on the team), he couldn’t play it defensively, so while he may have put up a bunch of inefficient points, his value was hurt by the fact that he couldn’t defend opposing point guards.
Michael Cuddyer’s opposing point guards are second and third base.
The good news is that there is an alternative who is much cheaper, a better hitter, and a marginally better defender. Of course however, cheaper doesn’t come without a reason.
Luke Scott had shoulder surgery last season. He tried to play through a torn labrum, and half way through the year he couldn’t play with a torn labrum anymore, so he had it surgically repaired.
We hate torn labrums in Seattle. Erik Bedard seemed like he had about nineteen torn labrums. But Bedard is a pitcher. Scott is a hitter. Could a torn labrum sap some of Scott’s power? Sure. Maybe. I’m not a doctor. James Andrews is a doctor though, and he says that Scott’s should is fine.
That is what is tangibly wrong with Scott. He had an injury. He’s had basically one serious injury in his whole career. It is the type of injury that can cause lingering problems, but it is the type of injury that someone may forget ever occurred after one healthy season of production.
Scott has never played in the playoffs. He doesn’t play third base poorly. He doesn’t play second base poorly. He plays first base alright, better than Cuddyer, but not great. He’s not a great outfielder either. But he’s a much better hitter than Cuddyer. As we sit through an offseason where many fans are clamoring for the Mariners to make a splash, to sign a big name free agent, Scott isn’t sexy. Even if it is only by virtue of the fact that he’s not going to sign a contract that is multiple years and several million dollars.
Scott is about a half year older than Cuddyer, but he’s also left-handed, hits for more power, strikes out about a tick more and walks a tick more.
Not everyone is in love with wOBA as a stat, myself included, but it at least makes an attempt to weight the value of different kinds of batting events as they relate to the probability of scoring a run. This is how the two stack up.
And as for that power, this is a comparison of the two players isolated power.
Scott is a better hitter, at least he has been for the past four years, and he was non-tendered by the Orioles this week. He was projected to receive a contract in the range of $6 milliion this year.
He hits for more power, and we’ve seen what Safeco does to right-handed hitters with marginal power. Cuddyer likely to be a risk that is about five times greater than Scott, and there is a good chance that in Safeco he will be worth a lot less.
Worse yet, investing in Cuddyer may prevent the Mariners from pursuing Prince Fielder, or any other big name premier hitter they could trade for (read Joey Votto) who may be signed to a long term extension.