January 25, 2008
Morneau, Cuddyer Sign Long-Term Extensions
Morneau was already under the team's control through 2010 as an arbitration-eligible player. Given the $7.4 million deal that he previously agreed to for 2008 and the $22-25 million that he was likely to make via arbitration between 2009 and 2010, the Twins essentially pre-paid him guaranteed salaries for those three arbitration-eligible years and then bought out his first three seasons of free agency (2011-2013) for around $45-50 million.
Cuddyer was already under the team's control through 2009, so the Twins essentially pre-paid him around $13.5 million in guaranteed salaries for those two arbitration-eligible seasons and then bought out his first year of free agency (2010) for around $9.5 million. Beyond that, they now control the rights to his second season of free agency (2011) for $10.5 million or can choose to let him go by paying a $1 million buyout.
Keeping two good, relatively young home-grown players in Minnesota is obviously a positive thing, but for the payroll-conscious Twins to commit over $100 million to a pair of hitters who have essentially been average for their respective positions during their careers is a major risk and perhaps not the best use of limited resources. Beyond that, it makes it difficult to buy into the oft-repeated notion that the Twins can't afford to commit over $100 million to a truly elite player like Santana.
Morneau won the AL MVP in 2006 despite being far from the league's best player and for all the talk of his back-to-back 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons he's been essentially a league-average first baseman during his five-year career. Similarly, Cuddyer has driven in 190 runs over the past two years, but that's due largely to hitting in the middle of the lineup and he's been essentially a league-average right fielder since moving to the position full time in 2006.
AVG OBP SLG OPS
Morneau career .276 .340 .498 .835
MLB average 1B .276 .357 .463 .821
AVG OBP SLG OPS
Cuddyer 2006-07 .280 .359 .469 .828
MLB average RF .281 .351 .453 .804
Morneau has been slightly above the position average offensively during his career and his 2007 performance (.271/.343/.492) was nearly identical to his career marks. Cuddyer has also been slightly above the position average offensively since moving to right field, but that's due to a career-best performance in 2006. He was below average offensively while hitting .276/.356/.433 last season and his .270/.346/.450 career mark is slightly below average for a right fielder.
There's no doubt that Morneau and Cuddyer are good, solid players, but there's plenty of reason to question whether the Twins should be paying premium prices for good, solid players given their payroll constraints, especially when they're about to let the best pitcher in baseball leave over money. For these deals to work strongly in the Twins' favor, Morneau and Cuddyer must increase their production or the team must significantly increase the payroll upon moving into the new ballpark in 2010.