Less has been more for Michael Cuddyer, who is finally contributing towards winning
This probably isn’t how the Mets or Michael Cuddyer envisioned his first year in Flushing would turn out.
Through the first three months of his tenure with the Mets, Cuddyer’s season was defined by disappointing underperformance after he had signed a two-year, $21 million contract last November.
He had posted a .662 OPS in his first 72 games with the Mets with only six home runs and 28 RBI with 67 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances.
But then he suffered a bone bruise in his knee in early July against the Cubs, which started to limit his playing time and ultimately costing him a couple of weeks on the disabled list.
Was the bruise a blessing in disguise for Cuddyer and the Mets? Of course, nobody wishes anyone to get hurt. But less has most definitely been more for Cuddyer, who seems to have thrived in a part-time role.
And that really began when he got injured, which was well before the Mets began acquiring players ahead of the trade deadline.
Before landing on the disabled list in late July, Cuddyer had 29 appearances in ten games last month, posting an .872 OPS with two home runs in a span of games in which he only started four times. He had three multiple-hit games in July.
Since returning from the disabled list on August 10, Cuddyer has embraced the role of a super-utility, part-time player. He has played first base and both corner outfield positions on an irregular basis, hitting .324/.361/.500 with three doubles, a homer and four RBI with only four strikeouts in 36 plate appearances over 12 games during that span.
Two of those RBI came on Tuesday night as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning when he singled up the middle against Jeanmar Gomez to give the Mets a lead they would not surrender.
“He’ll use the whole field,” Terry Collins said after Tuesday’s 6-5 win over the Phillies. “In that situation, that’s what he did. They got ahead of him and he just put a good swing on it.”
Cuddyer is 3-for-11 as a pinch hitter this season, a role he’s always found success in over the course of his career. He’s now 19-for-54 with 15 RBI as a pinch hitter in his career.
On Monday, Cuddyer had his best game as a Met, serving as the team’s right fielder while going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run.
Cuddyer attributes his recent success to not only feeling better physically, but just part of the ebbs and flows of a baseball season.
“I definitely feel better, there’s no question about that,” the veteran explained. “But I wouldn’t say that’s the only thing. In baseball, you go through these ups and downs. Right now, I’m seeing the ball well and the results are good.”
Is Cuddyer being a role player the best use of $21 million by the Mets? Not exactly.
But rather than continuing to hope he could be what they needed him to be as an everyday player, the club wisely acknowledged at the right moment what Cuddyer was at this stage of his career, and went out and acquired other players to protect his weaknesses and make him as productive as they now need him to be.
“I said since the first day coming here, I just want to win,” Cuddyer said when he returned from the disabled list. “How, that’s not the issue. I want to win.”
He’s winning, and in his new role, he’s contributing towards winning at a high level.