As part of our continuing coverage of the Tigers’ competition during the hot stove season, we return to the Twin Cities. Today the Minnesota Twins signed free agent outfielder Josh Willingham, though we have no word yet of the terms of the multi-year deal. Willingham will replace the Twins’ free agent Michael Cuddyer – a player similar in many ways. Both are big, right-handed corner outfielders with plus power and poor defense. Cuddyer strikes out less, Willingham walks more, but that’s about where the differences end. Bill James projects a .348 wOBA from Willingham and a .346 wOBA from Cuddyer, so it’s hard to spin this as an immediate improvement for Minnesota.
Doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant, though…
That said, if the Twins had not resigned Cuddyer and had instead attempted to fill that vacancy with internal candidates such as Ben Revere the Twins would have gotten significantly worse, so merely treading water can’t be considered negative. This is one of many moves, individually uninspiring, that will be necessary to give the Twins a shot to compete should Mauer and Morneau return to productivity. Due to the sad mess that is the MLB free agent compensation system, the Twins will benefit from signing a Cuddyer equivalent instead of Cuddyer. When some team (say, the Rockies) sign Cuddyer, the Twins will get two picks – and since Willingham and Cuddyer are both ‘modified Type-A free agents’ (basically, Type-Bs) the Twins don’t lose a single pick. This should have been a no-brainer – who wouldn’t rather have Cuddyer and two picks than Cuddyer? Honestly?
In other Twink news, the team cut lefty reliever Jose Mijares loose at the non-tender deadline. Strange, as far as I’m concerned. Relievers are notoriously prone to season-to-season variance, given the small sample a handful of really bad outings or a stretch without a good feel for the ball can make a whole season (and a whole player) look pretty awful. Though Mijares was bad last year, he was awfully good for a couple of years before that and would have been a good bounce back candidate. With a bullpen full of holes, the Twins seem like the kind of team that should be willing to take a flyer on a guy like Mijares, and they probably will wind up doing so in the end – though the guy or guys won’t be Mijares himself.