Michael Cuddyer will remain a member of the Colorado Rockies. Even though the team has allegedly received numerous calls about the veteran outfielder, Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd has insisted that Cuddyer isn’t going anywhere. But with the Rockies already 13.5 games back, and Cuddyer struggling, O’Dowd may want to reconsider.
When Cuddyer signed his three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Rockies this off-season, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm about the move. Though Cuddyer had been a useful player throughout his career, he was also overrated. And as Matt Klaassen pointed out when he analyzed Cuddyer’s deal in December, there were better outfielders on the market that signed for significantly less money. Even if Cuddyer played well, he was likely to be overpaid. Trading him now could allow the Rockies to reap some benefits after handing out a poor contract this off-season.
But Cuddyer has struggled to live up to expectations this season. The 33-year-old is hitting just .261/.316/.486. Plate discipline has never been one of Cuddyer’s strengths, and this year his 7.8% walk rate is even worse than normal. He’s also striking out more often. Cuddyer’s strikeout rate has jumped to 20.2% this season, his worst performance in the category since 2006. A look at Cuddyer’s plate discipline charts confirms those struggles. Cuddyer’s been more aggressive at the plate, but has made less contact than normal this season. Each of Cuddyer’s swing rates (O-Swing%, Z-Swing% and Swing%) are up this season. But all of Cuddyer’s contact rates (O-Contact%, Z-Contact% and Contact%) are down. Cuddyer’s SwStr% has jumped to 9.7, which explains why he’s struck out more often. Pitchers seem to be getting ahead of Cuddyer early in the count, as his F-Strike% is to 63.1% this year.
Cuddyer has regressed while playing in arguably the best hitters park in the game.
Cuddyer moved from Target Field — which suppresses home runs for righties, but mostly plays neutral — to Coors Field, arguably the best hitters park in the game. And while Cuddyer’s overall numbers have been down, they are inflated by his performance at Coors Field. Cuddyer is currently hitting .294/.364/.529 at home, and just .223/.260/.438 on the road. Without that Coors Field boost, Cuddyer’s slash line wouldn’t be good enough for teams to take interest. Take away Coors Field, and Cuddyer has been a below-average offensive player this season.
Cuddyer has a reputation as a great guy and a team leader, which is one of the reasons O’Dowd may keep him on the team. But in order for this team to compete, they are going to need useful, young players to build around. If teams have legitimate interest in Cuddyer, the Rockies could flip him for a useful cog that might be around when the team is able to compete again. O’Dowd has already built a solid foundation around Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, and getting more young talent around them should be his biggest priority right now.
Cuddyer is in decline. He’s surviving only because he’s been able to hit in one of the friendliest hitters ballparks in the game. And even though his numbers have been good at home, the team isn’t going to contend this season. He’s exactly the type of player that Rockies should be shopping at the deadline. But O’Dowd better change his mind soon, because once other teams start to realize Cuddyer’s performance this season is built on smoke and mirrors, the calls are going to stop.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.