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New York Mets History

NY Mets Free Agent Retrospective: Michael Cuddyer comes to New York

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 22: Michael Cuddyer #23 of the New York Mets stands in the on deck circle in the first inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 22, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 22: Michael Cuddyer #23 of the New York Mets stands in the on deck circle in the first inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 22, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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On November 10, 2014, the New York Mets rushed into free agency and added Michael Cuddyer to the roster. A childhood friend of David Wright’s, the Mets were hopeful he could come somewhere close to what he did in his final two seasons with the Colorado Rockies.

Two seasons before joining the Mets, Cuddyer won the National League batting title with a .331 average. In 2014, he hit .332 but wouldn’t have a shot at repeating because he only had 205 plate appearances.

Cuddyer was aging quickly. In 2015, he would be playing in his age 36 season. Looking at it optimistically or maybe just feeling persuaded by The Captain, the two parties agreed on a two-year deal worth $21 million.

Michael Cuddyer was not the free agent the Mets thought they were getting

Cuddyer joined the 2015 Mets to become their everyday left fielder. It was a stark change from the man they had at the position one year prior. In 2014, it was Eric Young Jr. who led the team in games as the team’s left fielder. The light-hitting and speedy second-generation player would return to the Mets in mid-2015 after being purchased from the Atlanta Braves. But when he did, left field was no longer occupied by Cuddyer on a regular basis.

You already know the story of the 2015 Mets well enough by now. The team was good but not great for a good part of the season. Then, in late July, they struck a spark.

Wilmer Flores’ tears followed by a walk-off home run and the addition of Yoenis Cespedes happened so fast. Before anyone knew it, the Mets were taking first place away from the Washington Nationals and about to march into the World Series.

A knee injury in late July moved Cuddyer to the now renamed disabled list. When he came back, his job was no longer there.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the door for the Mets to promote Michael Conforto to the big leagues to take over in left field. A week later, Cespdes arrived. The Mets suddenly had a couple of options in the outfield. And when Cuddyer returned, they had yet another.

The role Cuddyer was meant to play on the 2015 Mets had changed. Now relegated to the bench on most days, he saw his starts dwindle. He would end up with only 408 plate appearances for the club with a less than impressive .259/.309/.391 slash line to go with it. His 10 home runs matched what he did in his final Rockies’ campaign. However, with nearly twice as many trips to the plate, it didn’t come across nearly as grand.

Limited action down the stretch and even into the postseason, Cuddyer voluntarily retired from baseball after the season was over. He could see the writing on the wall. There was no country for this old man.

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Cuddyer’s time with the Mets wasn’t so memorable but his impact on the game itself was. Deaf in one ear since he was 11, Cuddyer became a big leaguer with a nice underdog story to latch onto. However, as the ninth overall draft pick by the Minnesota Twins in 1997, I’m not so sure anyone in the baseball world ever viewed him that way. For more than a decade, he was a quality player and someone I wish had a happier ending.

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