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MLB Trade Speculation: Could Michael Cuddyer Cure Phillies’ Offensive Woes?

As the All-Star break quickly approaches, and the midway point of the baseball season officially comes upon us, the focus of baseball operations for teams like the Philadelphia Phillies changes direction.

Now that teams have sorted through their organizational options, front offices around the game, be it as buyers or sellers, begin scouring the trade market to begin the rebuilding process or add pieces for the stretch run.

The Philadelphia Phillies will certainly be looking to add pieces for the stretch run as buyers. Entering play Tuesday, the Phils boasted the best record in baseball at 49-30, vying for their 50th win against their toughest challenge yet—the Boston Red Sox.

While players and management alike were unwilling to go so far as to call this series a potential World Series preview, those of us around the game with zero commitment to either side know that this could be a sampling of what’s to come when late October rolls around. The Phillies sit atop the National League with their monstrous pitching staff, and the Red Sox hold the second-best record in the American League with the game’s most devastating offense.

So while these two potential World Series combatants could meet again, this series will serve as more of a benchmark for the Phillies than anything. With the Red Sox rolling into Citizens Bank Park as their toughest foes yet, this series may force the Phils to make a move prior to the trade deadline.

Would you trade a top ten prospect to acquire Michael Cuddyer?

    Would you trade a top ten prospect to acquire Michael Cuddyer?
  • Yes 55.7%
  • No 44.3%
  • Total votes: 463

While it’s no secret that Charlie Manuel would like to add a bat to balance his lineup a bit, finding playing time for said hitter could be a problem. The only logical destination for an imported bat would be a corner outfield spot, and even then, with the ever-improving Domonic Brown manning right field and the veteran Raul Ibanez in left, those options are limited.

While benching Ibanez and the remainder of his hefty $11 million salary is an easy decision for the fans, for Manuel and his staff, benching the proverbial “good guy” isn’t as simple. In any case, getting the left fielder going and keeping him going is a vital task for the health of this offense. Leaving him out of the lineup all together for the rest of the season isn’t going to do either part any favors.

With every position on the diamond filled with a regular, at a glance, making a trade for an impact bat doesn’t seem logical, but upon further review, there may be just one guy who fits. With Ibanez’s struggles and the worrisome health of aging veterans like Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, finding a player with a lot of defensive versatility may be wise.

Prior to the season, Phils fans dreamt of Michael Young filling that role with the club, but now that he’s having one of his best seasons in recent memory and his Texas Rangers sit atop the AL West, a trade for him is even less of a possibility now than it was in March.

But finding someone similar to Young may be the key for the Phillies, and a quick glance at this season’s potential sellers reveals an interesting name—Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins.

Easily one of the season’s biggest disappointments, the Twins, who were expected to contend for the AL Central division, currently reside in last place, behind the likes of the surprising Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals. They’re 10 games out of first place on June 28, and an unbiased review of their roster reveals that they probably don’t have the pieces to make a run.

A lot of executives around the game believe trading some of their players in the final year of their contracts is a good idea, as moving guys like Cuddyer, Jim Thome, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps could bring in some nice prospects for the team moving forward.

If any team was going to have interest in Cuddyer, it would be the Phillies. With a current slash line of .290/.356/.461 and 10 home runs, he’s the solid right-handed bat that the Phils are desperately in need of, but much more than that.

While he won’t be winning any Gold Gloves anytime soon, Cuddyer has played all over the diamond with the Twins, particularly for the 2011 season when they asked him to move into more of a super-utility role. He’s spent the most time this season in right field, but has also played first and second base. As recently as the 2010 season, he has played third base and all of the outfield positions.

His versatility is something that the Phils could desperately use. If used correctly, Manuel could siphon him into the lineup daily, finding plenty of playing time for the 32-year-old Virginia native, be it as a regular in left field, moving Ibanez into a more limited role or playing him at various other positions on the diamond to give veterans like Utley and Polanco a breather.

The biggest obstacle in landing Cuddyer for the Phillies would be his salary. As Jim Salisbury of CSNphilly.com reported yesterday, the Phillies are hovering dangerously close to MLB’s luxury tax, with about $3 million to work with. If they were to wait until the trade deadline to acquire Cuddyer, roughly $5.25 million of his $10.5 million salary for the 2011 season would remain.

Obviously, that gives Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phils little leverage in orchestrating a deal for the Twins’ super-utility man. In order to acquire Cuddyer, the front office would be forced to overpay for him in terms of prospects so that the Twins would pay some of his salary. Whereas in a normal situation, a guy like Cuddyer may only cost a couple of fringe prospects, now, the Phils may be forced to dangle a top-10 prospect in order to get the Twins to bite.

All in all, however, Cuddyer may be a worthwhile investment for the Phillies, as he fills a number of needs and glaring holes on the current roster. First and foremost, he brings a much better offensive arsenal to the plate than Raul Ibanez. Currently mired in another slump, the Phils’ interim left fielder’s days as a regular may be numbered.

Secondly, he gives the team a more reliable option off the bench. Let’s face it—this team isn’t getting any younger. With Chase Utley’s chronic medical condition and the overall age of this roster, a guy like Cuddyer becomes more valuable. At present, the only viable options for the Phils in the infield in place of Utley and Polanco are Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez, who boast OPS’s of .589 and .462 respectively.

They say you have to give something to get something, and Michael Cuddyer may be well worth a top-10 prospect as the Phils gear up for another run at a World Series title.

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