On Michael Cuddyer’s future with the Rockies

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The Rockies decided to ante up $31.5 million for Michael Cuddyer’s age 33-35 seasons on Friday, so I thought it’d be fun to look at what some similarly productive players have done in those years.

Cuddyer had a 117+ OPS from 2009-11, his age 30-32 seasons. Since 1995, there have been 10 other corner outfielders with an OPS in the 115-120 range and at least 1,000 plate appearances from ages 30-32. Here they are, along with their OPS+s for ages 30-35, with 33-35 in bold.

Dante Bichette: 111, 129, 112, 103, 108, 102 (104 from 33-35)
Ron Gant: 145, 125, 83, 114, 96, 106 (104 from 33-35)
Geronimo Berroa: 116, 117, 120, 62, 56, 74 (62 from 33-35)
Matt Stairs: 131, 132, 92, 115, 118, 142 (125 from 33-35)
Tim Salmon: 119, 135, 98, 133, 122, 67 (118 from 33-35)
Rusty Greer: 124, 110, 104, 91, –, — (91 at 33)
Kevin Millar: 131, 110, 117, 98, 111, 106 (105 from 33-35)
Ichiro Suzuki: 130, 113, 106, 122, 102, 129 (117 from 33-35)
David Dellucci: 96, 126, 123, 68, 136, 40 (80 from 33-35)
Milton Bradley: 161, 100, 80, 91, –, — (91 at 33 in 2011)

So, this isn’t really a list of similar talents, but it does illustrate what tends to happen to above average regulars as they start to get into their mid-30s. Occasionally you’ll get a Stairs, but the players here most similar to Cuddyer — Bichette, Gant and Millar — all turned into borderline regulars at 33-34.

And that’s the big problem with the Rockies’ signing. It’s arguable whether Cuddyer was even worth $31.5 million from age 30-32, and he was a far better bet for those three seasons than he is for these next three.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.