The Minnesota Twins finalized a 3 year, $21 million dollar deal with outfielder Josh Willingham today, meaning that the Michael Cuddyer era is all but over in Minnesota. The Twins offer to Willingham was roughly $3 million dollars cheaper overall than the offer the Twins submitted to Cuddyer. Cuddyer was the longest tenured Twin but baseball is a business and in the end Willingham was the cheaper (and better) option. During the past three season Willingham has actually been the better player as well as the more valuable player even though he has roughly 400 less at-bats since 2009.
As you can see, Willingham has the advantage in every one of these statistical categories. He has much more power than Cuddyer while getting on-base at an impressive .360 clip. According to park factors the Coliseum makes it 20% harder for right handed hitters to hit home runs compared to league average, making Willingham’s power numbers even more impressive last year. Willingham is also producing offensively 11% better than Cuddyer over that span. Both of them are ok defenders, slightly below league average but not much. If anything Cuddyer might have the stronger arm.
Willingham’s contract on the other hand is pretty team friendly. For $7 million dollars a year he needs to average less than 2 WAR, that shouldn’t be a problem given his past success. If he can average between 2.5 and 1.5 WAR during his contract he should be able to give the Twins roughly $28.14 million dollars in value. Moving from Oakland to Minnesota should be a big help in achieving that goal.
By not signing Cuddyer and signing Willingham the Twins also got two compensation picks when Cuddyer signed a 3 year deal with the Colorado Rockies. The Twins aren’t really in re-build mode but when you can get two picks you take it.
Overall, I like this deal a lot for the Twins. They get a power hitting right-handed bat to hit behind Mauer and Morneau and they get him at the right price. If he can stay healthy and produce some pop than the Twins should be very pleased with this deal.