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.
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.