Michael Cuddyer is now the Twins’ starting second baseman

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In the wake of Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s fractured fibula the Twins have occasionally moved Michael Cuddyer from right field to second base, where he hadn’t played regularly since 2005.

Cuddyer hasn’t exactly thrived there, looking passable at best defensively while hitting just .160 in six games, but yesterday manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Cuddyer will be his primary second baseman until Nishioka returns next month.

It’s an odd move for a Twins team that’s constantly talking about (and being credited with) “doing the little things” and playing strong defense, because not only is Cuddyer a mediocre right fielder playing second base after five years away from the position he isn’t even providing a big offensive boost in the process.

Once upon a time Cuddyer was a good enough hitter to make trading offense for defense a worthwhile proposition, but he’s hit just .268 with a .333 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage in 177 games since the beginning of last season. That’s barely above average for a second baseman and Cuddyer has been particularly punchless versus right-handed pitching, slugging .379 off them during that time.

Gardenhire has talked about how playing Cuddyer at second base allows the Twins to also get both Jason Kubel and Jim Thome into the lineup at right field and designated hitter, but when Cuddyer isn’t a threat versus righties and neither Kubel nor Thome are threats versus lefties the benefit is mostly in name and reputation rather than actual production.

Padres may have more interest in Dallas Keuchel than Bryce Harper

Dallas Keuchel
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An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.

As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.

While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.