While it is only a little over a month into the season, I am watching Michael Cuddyer night in and night out and find myself wondering if jumping on him so early in the off-season was a good idea. I still believe that the contract can be viewed as a bargain (two-year/$21MM), even with losing the draft pick, if he stays healthy and produces. I still can’t help but wonder would our offense be any worse to this point if we just kept Eric Young Jr. around and stuck him in left field? More importantly, he would be this teams much needed leadoff hitter and stolen base threat, not to mention would cover a ton more area in left field. It is too early into the season and into Cuddyer’s contract with the Mets to call it a failure or for me to look back and say we should have kept EY Jr. instead, but I am being honest by saying this idea has crossed my mind at least a few times to this point. It has also crossed my mind that had the Mets chosen Young Jr. over Cuddyer and not given out the big contract this spring, I would also be more optimistic that the Mets would open their check books to obtain an impact shortstop this season if the Mets remain in contention. However, with big money spent on Wright, Granderson, Colon, and Cuddyer, I just don’t see them realistically bringing in a Tulowitzki or Starlin Castro with the money they are owed. It also has to be in the back of Wilpon’s mind that he is eventually going to have to pay all of this young pitching as well. It is unfortunate that a team in a big market like New York behaves in this way fiscally, but it is the reality and unfortunately we have come to accept that the Mets ownership group is cheap.
All the talk surrounding Cuddyer was that he is a professional hitter and a leader in the clubhouse, when healthy. I am sure it didn’t hurt that he is very close friends with, and a mentor to, David Wright. If you remember David chose him over other more deserving hitters in the 2013 MLB Home Run Derby at Citi Field. However, the professional hitter that is rumored to be Michael Cuddyer is not what we have seen thus far. We saw it in the spring as he slugged home run after home run and hit for a high average. Since the games started counting though, his bat appears slow through the zone, he strikes out (a lot) and seems very similar to Wright as he often chases (and misses) sliders to the outer part of the plate. Not to mention, he is slow on the base paths, has limited range in the outfield and a below average arm.
All that being said, there are a number of things that I have loved so far about Cuddyer. He always plays hard. He runs out every ground ball and always goes hard into second to break up potential double plays. He is always going up to the younger players and providing words of encouragement and is quick to pass the spotlight to others when deserved. He has handled the New York media very well so far and always seems to say the right things at the right time, which has been especially important in the absence of Wright.
Eric Young Jr., now with the Atlanta Braves, is having an even worse offensive season to this point than Cuddyer. He is hitting just .167 but is in and out of the Braves lineup after they acquired Maybin as part of the Kimbrel opening night blockbuster trade. He still has the plus speed and range in the outfield, despite a below average arm and awful on-base skills. He is a switch hitter who makes things happen with his legs and not to mention he is making a fraction of what the Mets are paying Cuddyer. In his year plus with the Mets, Young played in 191 games, batted .242 with a .310 on-base and stole 68 bases. He was the spark plug to many Mets rallies and jolted their offense on many nights when it appeared stagnant (as it has most nights this season). While not on the same level as an individual talent, his impact on the lineup when he was going right was similar to how Jose Reyes used to provide a jolt of energy when he was here leading the Mets offense on a nightly basis.