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Rockies pick a foolish way to break the bank

Dec 16, 2011, 5:59 PM EDT

Michael Cuddyer AP

In reading work from the Denver Post’s Troy Renck and ex-Rocky Mountain News columnist Tracy Ringolsby, I’ve seen dozens (hundreds?) of references to players being too expensive for the Rockies over these last few years. Time and time again that player set to make $6 million, $9 million or $12 million per year was labeled out of reach. It was a constant theme.

And now the Rockies have signed Michael Cuddyer for $31.5 million over three years.

In doing so, they’re replacing a 29-year-old outfielder who has hit .275/.346/.487 the last three years with a 33-year-old who has hit .276/.341/.465 over the same timespan.

Yeah, read that again.

Now, that’s not entirely fair. Seth Smith has been platooned, so his fine slash line has been compiled overwhelmingly against righties. Smith has also taken advantage of playing in Coors Field, whereas Cuddyer has been playing in a very tough environment for power hitters since Target Field opened two years ago. While Smith has the better OPS, Cuddyer has a 117-110 advantage in OPS+, which is neutralized for league and ballpark.

Still, that’s just not much of an upgrade if it is one at all. Both are subpar defenders. Smith moves around a little better than Cuddyer, but he’s never mastered the art of playing the outfield. Cuddyer offers versatility, but really, no team should want him at second or third in much less than an emergency.

The Rockies are a little better today than they were yesterday, but only a little. It seems like there had to be a better way for them to spend their $10.5 million. Trading Smith and a prospect for Martin Prado would soften the blow, giving them a legitimate upgrade at second base to go along with their lesser one in the outfield. But, really, I think it would have made more sense to use that $10.5 million per year on Edwin Jackson instead.

In their defense, the Rockies were in something of a tough spot. It’s hard for them to sign pitchers without overpaying, and their biggest needs on offense were second base and third. Excepting a weak defender in Aramis Ramirez, there were no premier free agents at either of those positions, and really, the Rockies only wanted a one-year solution at third with Nolan Arenado potentially ready in 2013.

Still, Cuddyer wasn’t the answer to any question worth asking. And next time the Rockies can’t afford someone, the $31.5 million they spent today will be a big reason why.

  1. dwrek5 - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    Yikes, I assumed this was replacing Fowler and insurance for 2B. I dont like Smith being the odd man out here…

  2. dadandrusko - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    I feel your pain. The Twins locked in on Cuddyer and almost lost out on Willingham and almost for certain lost Jason Kubel. Once these execs get something in their heads, there’s nothing you can do but cry,

  3. mojosmagic - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    I agree makes very little sense. He is a great club house guy and should do fine playing in Coors but certainly not a game changer.

  4. mjay424 - Dec 16, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    Matthew, comparing the slash lines of Michael Cuddyer and Seth Smith is probably not the most insightful way to look at those two players. Cuddyer is a proven better hitter for power. Smith is better suited as a platoon player.

    The Rockies, undoubtedly overspent on Cuddyer but he could very well hit 25 homers, drive in 90-plus runs if healthy and if Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are healthy too. I just don’t like that contract amount and over three years.

    Rockies’ Analyst

  5. cintiphil - Dec 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    And one wonders why Prince is yet unsigned. There seems to be lots of money to throw around.

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