Stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx do great business by selling surplus designer merchandise at prices significantly lower than retail department stores. Often times, you can find merchandise that is literally identical to products found in Bloomingdales and Macy’s. I’m not sure if Ruben Amaro Jr. shops at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, but the acquisition of Ty Wigginton (below) certainly makes it seem that way. And for the short and long term future of the Phillies, that could be a very good thing.
Rumors have circulated since the beginning of free agency that the Phillies were interested in signing the Twins’ Michael Cuddyer (right). The contract, rumored to be ~ 3 years/$30 million, would have been a punch in the gut to a team who claims to be maxed out now and handcuff them further when deciding how to proceed with Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels. Cuddyer is a .272/.343/.451 hitter who filled in admirably at first for the concussed former MVP Justin Mourneau the last two seasons and also played right field.
Cuddyer is not a plus defender at any position but plays best at first. He may seem like a natural fit with Ryan Howard on the DL but would become displaced when the Big Man returns. Left field could be an option in a potential Cuddyer signing, but Cuddyer has only logged 38 career innings there and none since 2006. In his primary position in 2011, right field, Cuddyer played slightly above average, being rewarded for an above average arm. Not many teams can afford a $10 million bench bat. The Phillies, even in times of heightened prosperity, cannot either.
A lot of aspects of Cuddyer’s game are good but not great but there is no evidence to suspect that Cuddyer can take it to the next level of even “very good”. His versatility makes him an attractive option for teams looking for a role player but will price himself out of that market. This is why Ty Wigginton becomes the Marshall’s version of Bloomingdale’s Michael Cuddyer.
Both players have gained reputations for being super utility players and, on first glance, they are very similar players. Both have body types uncharacteristic for non-first base positions (Cuddyer 6’2, 225 lbs., Wigginton 6’3, 230 lbs.), both players have seen consistent action since 2002, and both play or have played LF/RF/3B/2B/1B. While Cuddyer is the superior hitter (.272/.343/.451 v. Wiggington’s .265/.325/.443), their career triple-slash lines are, at worst, comparable.
Using fWAR, Cuddyer has been worth 8 more WAR than Wigginton since 2001 in less at-bats which, no doubt, is a staggering number but their isolated power (Cuddyer .180 v. Wigginton .179) suggests they have similar amounts of pop. Cuddyer walks at a better clip by about 1.7% but Wigginton strikes out a negligible .2% less. Cuddyer does mash lefties harder (.291 BA v. .274 BA) but they are both fairly equal when hitting righties (.264 v. .261).
On the cursory, where Wigginton seems to have an advantage is defense. Unfortunately, this is probably not true and it is more likely that both players are very similar defenders. While Wigginton’s -3.1 UZR/150 at 2B gives the impression that he can hold his own, Wigginton has not posted a positive UZR/150 digit there since 2006. And while Cuddyer’s -8.2 mark suggests that he’s only slightly below average at 2B, he has not posted a positive number there since 2005 and in limited action had UZR/150s of -37 and -20.8 in 2010 and 2011. Comparing the two at 3B is a little more valuable since sample-sizes are larger and since it has been Wigginton’s primary position and one of the most likely spots he would fill in with the Phililes. Wigginton’s -15.3 isn’t incredible but stabilizes in years he receives more playing time there whereas Cuddyer has not seen more than 110 innings in a season there since 2005.
As Cuddyer a better player than Wigginton? Yes. Is he five times ($10 million for Cuddyer v. $2 million for Wiggington) the player? Not at all. The Phils can get the same mediocre/below average defense from Wigginton at 1B/2B/3B/LF/RF they would have received from Cuddyer for one-fifth the money. Offensively, Cuddyer could have been an asset in left if he would have agreed to/is comfortable playing there. But at $10+ million a year, Cuddyer’s contract becomes sink or swim and effectively blocks either or both John Mayberry Jr. or Dom Brown. Signing Michael Cuddyer had the potential to be a $10+ million a year albatross that compounded a $25 million per year overestimation. A $2 million risk for a very similar commodity is much more palatable.