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MLB Trade Rumors: Should the Phillies Sign Michael Cuddyer?

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On Friday, the Phillies signed DH Jim Thome to a one year deal, most likely to be a bat off the bench. But, Thome mentioned to friends, apparently, that he could prepare this offseason to play first base a few times a week in 2012 while Ryan Howard recovers from his offseason achilles surgery.

Now, the Phillies are interested in signing Twins outfielder/corner infielder Michael Cuddyer, according the's Jim Salisbury. Here is what Salisbury wrote on Friday night:

According to sources, the Phillies are in serious pursuit of free-agent Michael Cuddyer, who has spent his entire career with the Twins. Cuddyer is a right-handed hitter, who has averaged 22 homers and 82 RBIs the last three seasons. He is also versatile and can play both corner outfield spots as well as first base and third base.
The Phils are in need of depth at first base and in leftfield. First baseman Ryan Howard, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, is expected to open the season on the disabled list. It’s possible the Phils could use leftfielder John Mayberry Jr. at first while Howard mends. If that happens, Cuddyer would be valuable in left field – if the Phils can sign him. Cuddyer is considered a high-character, team-first guy and is being pursued by a number of teams. He and Thome are good friends so signing Thome could help the Phils in their quest to land Cuddyer.

Cuddyer would be an excellent addition to the Phillies lineup, as he can play all over the field, and is a right handed bat for a Phillies lineup that features several left handed hitters. 

More thoughts on Cuddyer to the Phillies after the jump:

So, if the Phillies do sign Cuddyer, he will probably play left field with John Mayberry Jr. playing first base. Cuddyer has decent power, doesn't strike out a ton, and walks a bit. He hit .284-.346-.459 with 20 HR, 70 RBI, 70 runs and 11 stolen bases in 2011, and if I remember correctly, he stole 3 bases in a game this season. 

So, what does this mean for outfield prospect Domonic Brown? GM Ruben Amaro has been quoted saying that he thinks Brown needs another year in AAA. Here is ESPN's Keith Law thoughts on the possibility of Cuddyer joining the Phillies:

My assumption, based on Amaro's comments, is that Brown is headed for AAA - or a trade. That gives more LF time to Mayberry (the best defensive option), so he's less available at first, putting Cuddyer/Thome there maybe 90% of the time.

Cuddyer could play all over the field for the Phillies including spelling second baseman Chase Utley at times. But, this possible move is significant for Domonic Brown owners, as many thought he could/should be in the Phillies' plans for 2012. Brown was mishandled in 2010, as he was promoted to the big leagues when Shane Victorino landed on the DL, was not sent back down when Victorino came off the D, and sat on the bench for the rest of the 2010 season. Brown could have benefitted from getting more at bats in AAA than sitting on the bench in Philadelphia.

Brown then struggled in AAA in 2011, hitting .274-.395-.414 with 5 HRs, 19 RBI, 26 runs, 12 SBs and a 36-30 K/BB rate in 157 at bats.Brown didn't fare much better with the big league club, hitting .245-.333-.391 with 5 HRs, 19 RBI, 28 runs, 3 stolen bases and an excellent 35-25 K/BB rate in 184 at bats. You have to like the K/BB rate in AAA and in the big leagues, but his power was horrible.

The Phillies are in a catch 22 here, I think. Should they sign Cuddyer, they risk their top prospect losing confidence in AAA, having a bad year , and losing trade value should the team need an upgrade at the July 31, 2012 trade deadline. But, the loss of Ryan Howard for at least the first month of the season, and possibly longer, Amaro knows the window for winning another World Series is closing. His team isn't getting younger, and as everyone has seen the last few seasons, as players age, they get injured more. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino all missed time to the DL in 2011, and when called up to help the big league squad, Brown has not performed up to expectations.

Adding Cuddyer provides the Phillies lineup with an experienced hitter who could help them withstand the loss of Howard for the first month or so of the 2012 season. Once Howard does return, Cuddyer allows the Phillies to rest Howard so that he is 100% healthy come September and October. Cuddyer can also spell Utley from time to time to keep him fresh as well.

Cuddyer certainly would help the team now, but they could lose their top outfield prospect or have to deal him while he still has value.