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Josh Willingham’s three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins is finally official

Dec 15, 2011, 11:50 AM EDT

willingham getty Getty Images

Josh Willingham and the Twins went oddly silent after news broke earlier this week that he’d agreed to terms on a three-year, $21 million contract, leading to speculation that Michael Cuddyer may have had second thoughts about leaving Minnesota.

I’m still not sure what the lengthy delay and secrecy was about, but the Twins have finally announced the signing officially after Willingham passed a physical exam.

Willingham will get $7 million in each of 2012, 2013, and 2014, but can add another $1 million to his 2014 salary by logging at least 525 plate appearances in 2013.

Now that Willingham to the Twins is official Cuddyer seems likely to sign with the Rockies, although the Mariners and Reds are among several other teams to express interest. He had a three-year, $25 million offer on the table from Minnesota, but went more than a week without giving them an answer to seemingly indicate he wanted to move after spending his entire career with the Twins.

And ultimately the Twins are probably better off with Willingham, a pair of draft picks, and some extra cash.

  1. dl3mk3 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Your gleeman article actually says they would be better off with the guy they know, i thought that was strange considering they get willingham cheaper and have 2 picks. You may want to correct that-it appears from the above that you agree with me.

    • kopy - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:02 PM

      I interpreted his article as to mean the Twins, not necessarily Gleeman, might prefer Cuddyer over Willingham if the salary difference and draft picks weren’t in the equation.

    • kander013 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:06 PM

      Since you stopped reading after the first sentence in the last paragraph, I’ll just finish the whole thing for you, “Given all those similarities I’m willing to believe the Twins would be better off sticking with the guy they know and clearly love, but there’s a huge difference between preferring Cuddyer to Willingham and preferring Cuddyer to Willingham, two high picks worth millions of dollars, and perhaps some extra money. Subjectively the Cuddyer decision is no doubt very tough for the Twins, but objectively it’s even tougher to argue that Willingham wouldn’t be a better option.”

      So in recap Aaron’s thoughts-they’re similar players, but because Willingham is cheaper, and provides two draft picks when he signs elsewhere, he’s a better choice.

  2. Aaron Gleeman - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    Your gleeman article actually says they would be better off with the guy they know, i thought that was strange considering they get willingham cheaper and have 2 picks. You may want to correct that-it appears from the above that you agree with me.


  3. sknut - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    I was afraid the Twins were having second thoughts and were trying really hard to bring Cuddy back. I like the move and the extra draft picks. I am sorry to see Cuddy go and he is a good guy I will continue to root for him.

    • kopy - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      I think your fear was justified, but Willingham forced the Twins’ hand by accepting an offer. It’s definitely not the Twins’ fault Cuddyer is gone though, he had every opportunity to sign a good deal if he wanted to be in Minnesota.

      • sknut - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

        I agree and it was obvious that last year frustrated him to no end. This is just a refreshing baseball move for the Twins to get a similar player with some savings and to collect two draft picks.

  4. dluxxx - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Who’s going to do all the post game interviews for FSN now? Hopefully Willingham has been brushing up on his “awe shucks, we just play to win” lines and maybe a few magic tricks to appease the MN masses.

    On a serious note, I sure hope his new magic tricks involve making lots and lots of balls dissapear into the left field seats and making fly balls turn into outs…

  5. drunkenhooliganism - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    It sucks for fans that teams get an incentive to churn players as opposed to keeping the guys who have built relationships with the cities and fanbases.

    • dluxxx - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      See, the flip side of this is that it’s great for teams to be compensated for having their star players poached by the highest bidder. If you can’t afford to keep them, then they sign elsewhere and the team is left in the lurch? That doesn’t seem right either.

      Also, with the exception of this year, a team will typically have to give up a pick to sign a better player from another team. That means there is incentive for teams to NOT sign away free agents from other teams.

      You can’t have your cake (or pie) and eat it too.

      • dluxxx - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:09 PM

        And by except for this year, I mean the one year change to Type B signings…

      • drunkenhooliganism - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:20 PM

        I understand why the FA compensation is there. It just seems that it incentivizes teams to dump players and sign new guys. The phillies are better off signing papelbon then resigning madson. The twins are better off signing willingham than resigning cuddyer. It kinda sucks for the kids who got to meet one of those guys at a charity function and rooted for them they’re whole life.
        It’s not that they’re leaving for more money or to be the closer or starting left fielder at their new place. Or for more money or to be closer to family. They’re leaving partly because it benefits their old team to get a new guy.

      • dluxxx - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        “They’re leaving partly because it benefits their old team to get a new guy.”

        Only this year really. Otherwise, it hurts to sign guys like Willingham because you sacrifice the future for today. Some teams (Yankees, Boston, etc) are willing to do this, but others are less willing to give up picks to sign a new player. They have incentive to keep their players so they don’t have to sign someone else and lose draft picks for it. The only time there is an incentive is when they are downgrading through free agency (not the case here) or they are promoting a promising player from within.

        And if you’re saying that Cuddyer isn’t leaving because of money, then you’re probably wrong. The Twins made him a fair offer, and he didn’t even give them the courtesy of a response.

      • dluxxx - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM

        Also, they are leaving because they’ll get paid more elsewhere.

  6. ckeehr - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    But now don’t the A’s get the #2 pick in the draft and the Twins drop down to #3? I read an article stating that the team that signs Cuddyer or Willingham won’t lose any draft picks put instead will slide into that teams draft position.

    If so, I hope those Cuddyer to the Mariners rumors are true. The Twins would have the #3 and #4 picks in this years draft.

    Please let me know if this is right because nobody is really talking about his part of free agency.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      That doesn’t seem right at all….particularly since I believe the Mets got only a 3rd rounder for Reyes in addition to the sandwich round pick.

    • dluxxx - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM

      That is incorrect. It will affect the second round, not the first. See earlier posts on Willingham to get clarification, or check out the comments section of Gleeman’s linked post.

    • jwbiii - Dec 15, 2011 at 8:56 PM

      My reading of this
      suggests that ckeehr is correct.

      drmonkeysarmy: The Mets get a second rounder for Reyes. The Marlins’ first round pick is protected. Heath Bell was an A type and had a higher Elias rating* than than Reyes did. However, Bell was downgraded to a B type with no loss of a second round pick to the Marlins. This upgraded the Mets’ compensation pick to the second round, as well as the first round sandwich pick.

      *Elias rating is a misnomer. The rating system was developed during the last CBA, so essentially it’s the Selig/Fehr rating system. There are plenty of reasons to dislike the Elias Sports Bureau, but all they do here is keep score. Blaming them for wacky player ratings is like blaming National Cash Register for your grocery bill.

      • jwbiii - Dec 15, 2011 at 9:18 PM

        I promise to stop beating on the so-called Elias ratings. The old nag’s days are numbered, she’s headed for the glue factory in a few months, so there’s really no point. Next season, teams will have to tender offers to their free agents the average of the top 125 highest paid players, about $12.5M, to be eligible for free agent compensation.

  7. Alex K - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    The only reason I can think of for the hold up would be the Twins weren’t sure he would pass the physical. He has had a bunch of knee probems in the past.

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