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.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.