Saturday, December 17, 2011

Questions fly after Rockies sign Michael Cuddyer

Did the Rockies overpay?

Did the Rockies sign the right guy?

How much can he actually help?

Will he make enough of an impact to make it worthwhile?

All questions being asked by Rockies fans on Friday after they signed Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million contract.

Honestly, all questions Rockies fans would have been asking regardless of who Dan O'Dowd had signed with the available money.

Fact is, every free agent signing is a gamble to some degree with the absurd salaries these players are earning. Each of them have their upside. Each of them have their downside. And believe me, we know that downside better than anyone after the disasters of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle a decade ago.

Even though a lot of you are saying you would have spent the money a different way, you would have questioned that move just the same had it happened. And that's OK. It's a natural reaction. It's tough to get away from those bad memories, or how far it set the Rockies back. But we have to. And we have to give O'Dowd a chance to do his job.

Personally, I'm just happy O'Dowd identified a target -- a target many teams were after, by the way -- and I'm happy he was able to lure him to Denver. I don't think there's any question Cuddyer makes them a better team right now, which is good. I also don't think he's a great bet to be productive through the entirety of the deal, which isn't good. But O'Dowd simply couldn't go into 2012 without giving Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki some backup.

The Rockies desperately needed a third bat that opposing teams have to respect and at times even fear. As much as I love them, Todd Helton or Seth Smith aren't those guys. They also needed a guy that can play all over the field. Cuddyer, having logged time in both corner outfield and corner infield positions, as well as second base, fits that bill also.

You can debate how good he'll be defensively at those positions, but he should easily outperform the men who played them in 2011 with the bat. This team needs to be more consistent offensively, so I'll take that.

There's one more big point to make on Cuddyer. I'll take it right from the article I wrote on the signing for Big League Stew.

During a conference call with season ticket holders on Tuesday night, O'Dowd made it clear that he's tired of his ball club underachieving. To fix that, he was intent on not only rebuilding his team on the field, but rebuilding his clubhouse. He concluded his thought by saying "We have a lot of really great kids, we just need to get men wanting to compete". I assure you those aren't subtle digs at Gonzalez and Tulowitzki, but rather overhand rights directed at some Rockies who have already left town, and others that will be competing for roster spots this spring.

From all accounts heard out of Minnesota, Michael Cuddyer is exactly the type of guy O'Dowd can count on to change the culture. He's a respected leader in the clubhouse, and he'll compete on a daily basis. Assuming that takes even a little pressure off their budding superstars both on and off the field, he'll be well worth a significant portion of the hefty price they have paid.

It's sad that we have to point out and praise players for competing day in and day out, but after last season's mess it's necessary. You can break down all the number trends you want, they won't mean a damn thing if the Rockies don't compete harder in 2012. Compete harder, play smarter, and hold each other accountable.

Michael Cuddyer will do all of those things. How much of an impact that has on other players is up to them, but at least we know we have one more player that will live up to that.

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