12/16/11 7:29 PM EST
Cuddyer agrees to three-year deal with Rockies
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
The right-handed-hitting Cuddyer, 32, hit .284 with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs for the Twins last season. He has hit at least 20 homers three times in his career, including a career-high 32 in 2009. In 1,139 career games, all with the Twins, Cuddyer is a .272 hitter with 141 homers and 580 RBIs.Cuddyer figures to fit in the lineup in left field, but also could move to first base on days Todd Helton is not in the lineup. The Rockies could use him in the No. 5 spot behind shortstop Troy Tulowitzki or at No. 6 if the Rockies want the left-handed-hitting Helton to continue to bat behind Tulowitzki. Cuddyer also offers versatility, with experience in both corners of the outfield, third base and first base.
The Rockies also were looking to remake the flavor of the clubhouse after finishing 73-89 last season and not showing the toughness that had become a trademark of the club in recent seasons. The team has added a pair of veterans via free agency: catcher Ramon Hernandez for two years and $6.4 million and Cuddyer.The Rockies still aren't likely done rebuilding their 2012 roster. Left-handed-hitting Seth Smith, who figures to be supplanted by Cuddyer, is the team's main chip in its attempts to fill other holes. There is a key need for a starting pitcher who is capable of throwing 200 innings, with left-hander Jorge De La Rosa having to come back from Tommy John surgery and out until sometime around June. The Rockies rid themselves of $7 million in salary by dealing relief pitcher Huston Street to the Padres and further trimmed the payroll of a projected $2.6 million when they sent arbitration-eligible third baseman Ian Stewart to the Cubs as part of a four-player trade, helping the club achieve enough payroll relief to make an offer to an outfielder like Cuddyer. The Rockies began pursuing Cuddyer early in the free-agency period, but needed the market to fall into place. That occurred on Thursday, when outfielder Josh Willingham signed a three-year deal with the Twins. But signing Cuddyer means the Rockies will not be able to continue to pursue Hiroki Kuroda, a right-hander reportedly looking for a one-year deal in the $13 million range.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.