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Crede, Cuddy, or the Two-Headed Monster?

Most Twins fans have agreed on one thing this offseason: getting a third baseman with power is the team’s most pressing need. The hot stove has been kept plenty warm with all the rumors surrounding the Twins this winter, but none of that heat has manifested itself into something useful.

Rumors about players such as Adrian Beltre, Garret Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Ty Wigginton have been bandied about, with varying levels of credibility. Some of the names that have been mentioned are still possible acquisitions, although at this point the chances seem remote.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players that have been most recently mentioned as realistic options: Joe Crede, Michael Cuddyer, and a platoon of Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris.

Kouzmanoff has also come up as a player that the Twins will “keep an eye on,” but we’ll ignore him for now since he seems like more of a long shot than the other three options.
If we compare the statistics of Crede, Cuddyer, Buscher and Harris, we see that Crede is the best option of the group.

Crede is a free agent coming off several injury plagued seasons, and years of chronic back problems. He and his agent, Scott Boras, claim Crede’s latest surgery has taken care of those issues, but with nagging injuries, especially back injuries, you never really know. However, if Crede really is healthy, and he is willing to sign short term deal, he is the best option readily available.

Crede has shown good power when healthy, hitting 30 HR in 2006, and 17 before injuring himself in 2008. In those seasons he posted an OPS of .828, and .773 as well. While it is fair to say he probably won’t reach the .828 level, it is reasonable to assume an OPS of .750, if healthy. For comparison sake, Cuddyer’s OPS was .699 in his injury plagued season last year, and Buscher and Harris checked in at .730 and .721, respectively.

Crede is a better offensive option than both Harris and Buscher. His biggest weakness comes from his low OBP, but he makes up for it by slugging at a higher clip than either Buscher or Harris.

Defense is the other area in which Crede stands out. Fangraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which shows “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs and error runs combined,” tells us that Crede is a far superior defender to Buscher or Harris. Crede’s UZR last season checked in 5.4, well above average, while Buscher and Harris were each below average at -2.7 and -4.2. Cuddyer, while spending the majority of his time at third base in 2005, also checked in below average at -1.6. Furthermore, it has been four years since Cuddyer has seen extended time at third, and it is likely he has regressed from his already below average defense.

Crede has proven himself to be a better defender through several other defensive statistics, too, and, quite simply, to the naked eye as well. It is clear how enormous the defensive upgrade would be with Crede.

After analyzing the options, it is clear that Crede should be the choice to play third. The cost should be relatively low, and he would be an obvious upgrade to the options currently on the roster.

Unless the Twins have a few tricks up their sleeve to pull off something big in the trade market, we should hope to see Crede on the roster by the start of spring training.

Written By: Eric Johnson
Look for his column every Tuesday and check out his blog at http://www.juiceandthekicker.blogspot.com/

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