Michael Cuddyer’s Leadership and Grit Similar to Trot Nixon’s, Making Him Perfect Fit for Red Sox


Michael Cuddyer's Leadership and Grit Similar to Trot Nixon's, Making Him Perfect Fit for Red SoxLeader. Versatile. Clutch.

Acquiring a player who can claim to be one of those is usually a sound investment. Acquiring a player who possesses all three of those characteristics is a no-brainer.

With that in mind, Michael Cuddyer is a name that Red Sox fans could learn to love.

Cuddyer's name hasn't really been tossed around when it comes to the right-field vacancy left by free agent J.D. Drew. Instead, speculation has centered around the likes of Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore, or even whether to move forward with a combination of in-house products in Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish.

Yet, there sits Cuddyer on the open market, reportedly being pursued by the Phillies, but still very much there for the taking. Well, it's time for the Sox to move. And move now.

Cuddyer probably isn't a make-or-break player for the Sox, and he'd hardly do anything to improve the club's starting pitching or restore its bullpen (a void that will only get bigger if Jonathan Papelbon signs elsewhere). But he's the type of player who could help get this team over the hump — the type of player Red Sox fans have come to adore over the years.

The key word there is "help."

When Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, "This offseason is more about fixing what's under the hood than buying a new car," he was right. The Sox still won 90 games in one of the toughest divisions in baseball and put together a two-month stretch during the middle of the season in which they were the best team in the bigs.

The Sox might not be a Rolls-Royce at the moment, but they're far from a Moped. For one, they've got a solid roof — OK, I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with that, but the point is they've got enough pieces already in place to contend in 2012. And Cuddyer is one of those parts that could help make the Sox-mobile ride like a dream.

Boston's clubhouse conduct was called into question following last season's collapse, generating a sense amongst fans that there may not have been enough leadership on the roster. And while suggesting such is merely a matter of speculation and opinion, it's obvious there was something missing from the 2011 squad. If leadership was, in fact, that missing piece, Cuddyer fits in beautifully.

For the past three years, Cuddyer has received the Bob Allison Leadership Award, which is awarded to the Twins player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. The past two years, he's also received the Mike Augustin Award, given to the Twins player who fosters healthy relations with the media.

Sounds like one of heck of a guy. And granted you don't win games on simply being a good guy, just as you don't win games solely on talent, but a player of Cuddyer's character could go a long way toward restoring the clubhouse camaraderie that was at the heart of Boston's last two World Series titles — particularly in 2004.

But as much of a leader as Cuddyer is, he also features the talent, making him even more enticing for a team with a vacancy at his primary position.

He hit .284 this past season en route to his first All-Star selection, and while his career offensive numbers aren't extremely eye-popping, his career-high 32 home runs and 109 RBIs (in 2009 and 2006, respectively) are an indication that he does feature some pop — which he shows to all fields.

In other words, he's a Trot Nixon-type when it comes to offensive production. In fact, Baseball-Reference.com reveals such, as Nixon and former Red Sox outfielder Troy O'Leary are among the three most similar batters by age (according to Baseball-Reference's "similarity scores").

What those "similarity scores" don't take into account, though, is Cuddyer's toughness and grit, which also reflects Nixon's. He's shown an ability to push through injuries in his career, which is something Drew was consistently scrutinized for — whether it was warranted or not.

The knock on Cuddyer is his somewhat limited range, which could hurt him a bit at Fenway. But what he lacks in that regard, he makes up for with a strong throwing arm, which would provide a nice complement to the speed already in place in the Boston outfield.

Then, there's Cuddyer's versatility.

Lost in the constant attack on Drew is that he only played in three less games than Kevin Youkilis (528 to 525) from 2007-2010. That number increased to 42 total this season, when Drew played in 81 games to Youkilis' 120, but it's obvious that Youkilis is just as suspectible to injury as Drew was during his Boston tenure. The hope, obviously, is that Youkilis will be at 100 percent for 2012, but Cuddyer has shown an ability to play in the infield, only adding to his value.

Cuddyer appeared in 46 games at first base and 17 games at second base during 2011. In 2010, he appeared in 14 games at third base, in addition to 84 games at first base and one game at second base. For his career, Cuddyer has played 210 games at first, 171 games at third and 79 games at second.

Beltran and Sizmore's career infield experience? Zero.

Oh yeah, and Cuddyer is a career .338 (25-for-74) hitter in 22 postseason games.

Beltran and Sizemore might be the more sexy right-field options, given their eight combined All-Star appearances and how highly regarded each was in his prime, but Cuddyer's the better fit when it comes to fixing up the problems that kept the Red Sox from the postseason in 2011.

After all, when trying to get from Point A to Point B, sometimes it's better to drive a Toyota Camry than a Rolls-Royce.

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