After one grueling week of non-moves, free agency got off to a rip-roaring start on Monday with Michael Cuddyer signing a two year deal worth $21 million to play baseball for the New York Mets. As a result, the New York Mets surrendered their first round pick (#15 overall) and the Colorado Rockies add a supplemental pick thanks to Cuddyer receiving a qualifying offer and rejecting it to move east to Queens.
There are a few different angles to explore with this particular deal in no particular order. The first of which is Cuddyer's decision to turn down a one year, $15 million deal to accept a two year, $21 million deal. The logical takeaway from that decision is that Cuddyer had a strong preference to play in New York or a very strong preference to leave Colorado. He was guaranteed $15 million and could very likely have picked up $6 million on a one year deal in 2016. This deal might make sense in February, but with the entire offseason in front of him, Cuddyer made a quick decision to sign a deal at seemingly the bottom of his possible earnings.
For the Mets, the big question is how much they should have valued their erstwhile draft pick. At two years and $21 million, the actual contract looks entirely reasonably for a player expected to provide something like 1.5-2.5 WAR over two seasons according to early looks at Steamer and ZiPS, and basic aging curves. If he's even a little above the projections the deal could wind up being entirely reasonable.
According to the basic models of draft pick value, the 15th overall pick is worth something like $10 million in expected surplus value. That makes this deal more like 2/$30MM and stretches the limits of what you'd like to pay a player like Cuddyer who is often hurt and frequently bad at defense.
But there's another aspect of this deal that we need to consider. Are the Mets planning to sign another QO free agent, thus mitigating the draft pick cost? Are they planning to acquire another big player via trade, pushing them into the location on the win curve where Cuddyer's extra value could send them into the wild card blender?
So what's the #HotTake here? Cuddyer took a quick, cheap deal relative to what he could have made if he accepted the qualifying offer. That indicates that he had a distinct preference to play for the Mets this year. The Mets signed an average-ish player for at or above market rate very early in the offseason. Did they miscalculate or do they have a master plan?
It's too early to say. There's a path here that could make a whole lot of sense for the Mets and Cuddyer and one that just makes this look like slightly off base. Heck, there's even a theory going around that suggests this was a setup to allow the Mets to "trade" their first round pick to the Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki (along with other stuff).
The first deal often looks better in hindsight, but for now, it's slightly puzzling for both sides and not horrible for anyone. We didn't get a truly interesting move, but there's plenty to digest nonetheless.