Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.
CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)
A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.
While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.
Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.
Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.
Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.
“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’
Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.
But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.