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Cuddyer won't help Phils get any younger

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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In many ways, Michael Cuddyer would be a classic Ruben Amaro Jr. signing — an older, high-character type, similar to Raul Ibanez in 2008 and Placido Polanco in ’09.

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There’s just one problem.

Cuddyer, who turns 33 on March 27, will not make the Phillies any younger.

The Phillies, as first reported by csnphilly.com, indeed have serious interest in Cuddyer as a free agent. Cuddyer could play left field, fill in at first base while Ryan Howard recovers from his torn left Achilles tendon and also offer protection at second and third. But at some point, the Phils need to inject youth and speed, and signing Cuddyer would run counter to that.

If the Phils add Cuddyer and re-sign free-agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins, right fielder Hunter Pence and left fielder John Mayberry would be their only regulars under 30 on Opening Day — and Mayberry could return to the bench once Howard, 31, recovered from his injury.

Nothing against Cuddyer, who likely would be even more of an offensive force in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park than he was at pitcher-friendly Target Field. But check out the Phillies’ declining run totals over the past three seasons: 820, 772, 713. Might it be time to try something different?

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One way to get younger would be to replace Rollins with Freddy Galvis, the Phillies’ top shortstop prospect. But Galvis, 21, has only 126 plate appearances at Triple A, and needs more time to develop as a hitter, if he becomes one at all. His combined .324 on-base percentage at Double A and Triple A last season marked the first time he exceeded .300 in his minor-league career.

Mayberry, 27, and Domonic Brown, 24, also could be part of the solution, but the Phillies evidently are not convinced — they are focusing more on left field in free agency than any other position (free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes’ leg problems scare them, sources say). Yet Brown, following the loss of Howard, could be an especially critical part. The Phillies, without Howard and the free agent Ibanez, suddenly would be much less left-handed.

The Phillies are looking at other free-agent left fielders besides Cuddyer, but none is ideal. Grady Sizemore, 29, might be too big an injury risk. Juan Pierre, 34, could replace Rollins in the leadoff spot but had just a .329 OBP last season. David DeJesus, 31, is not high on the club’s list, according to sources.

Another possibility would be to find a center fielder and move Shane Victorino to left, but the Phillies don’t seem enthused about the free agents at that position and are reluctant to trade any more prospects for, say, a B.J. Upton.

So, Cuddyer it might be, and few would criticize his signing, just as few criticized the additions of Ibanez in 2008 and Polanco in ’09. Ibanez was a major contributor to the Phillies’ World Series team in ’09, but he declined in the second and third years of his deal and probably was overpaid at $10.5 million per season. Polanco is fine when healthy but has missed 70 games over the past two seasons at third.

I’m not trying to knock Cuddyer — he will be a short-term asset to any team he joins, the Phillies included. But at his age, just don’t expect him to sustain his performance on a multi-year deal.

BALTIMORE'S CHOICE


The Orioles were desperate to hire a general manager. Dan Duquette was desperate to be a GM again. Their union, then, represents a perfect marriage, albeit one of ugly ducklings.

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Duquette, who last was a GM with the Red Sox in 2002, might turn out better than his detractors think — he is undeniably smart and, as the forgotten man in the Sox’s rise, is out to prove a point.

Still, one bright executive after another has gone through Baltimore under owner Peter Angelos, and to what end?

No matter how the Orioles spin it, the reluctance of many GM candidates to accept or even consider their opening was the most damning statement yet on the perception of their organization within the industry — and that’s quite a statement, considering that the franchise is coming off its 14th straight losing season.

In the end, the Orioles were in such a rush, they declined to even wait for the chance to interview Yankees director of player personnel Damon Oppenheimer, perhaps fearing that they would be jilted again.

Some say the Orioles will never recover until Angelos no longer is owner, and I tend to agree; look at how Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, operating in a similar market, has revived his team since taking over in 2005.

Still, the Orioles could start to recover by allowing Duquette to overhaul the scouting and player development departments. The Orioles’ resistance to doing so turned off at least one interested candidate.

As one rival executive pointed out, the Orioles might be No. 1 on commissioner Bud Selig’s fix-it list if not for the problems with the Dodgers, Mets, Athletics and Rays. But here’s how far the Orioles have fallen: The problems with those four clubs are financial or ballpark-related. The Orioles are not challenged in either area.

No, they are challenged because their organization is an embarrassment, with the rival executive mocking Angelos’ “I’ll-do-it-my-way” stubbornness by calling him “the Al Davis of baseball.”

Best of luck to Duquette.

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Prince Fielder had 207 unassisted putouts as a first baseman last season, while Albert Pujols had 144, according to STATS LLC.

Those numbers would appear to suggest that Pujols is losing range and athleticism, while Fielder is perhaps more agile than most believe.

Not so fast.

The Cardinals position Pujols more off the line than any other team plays its first baseman, according to one rival executive. Thus, Pujols is unable to get back to the bag for as many unassisted putouts as others at the position.

There are numbers to support that contention, too.

Pujols had 165 assists last season, 115 of the 3-1 variety. Fielder had 84 assists, 47 of them 3-1.

THE BUTLER IS STAYING


One GM suggested that the Royals might trade Billy Butler, creating a four-man outfield/DH rotation of Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and Lorenzo Cain.

Not happening, major league sources say.

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While the Royals want to trade or sign at least one veteran starting pitcher, they view Eric Hosmer and Butler as their 3-4 hitters long-term. Hosmer, 22, is under club control through 2017; Butler, 25, through ’15.

Butler has yet to hit more than 21 home runs in a season, and had the same OPS-plus as Howie Kendrick last season. Still, scouts in the Arizona Fall League continue to report that right-handed power hitters are in short supply.

The minute the Royals traded Butler, they would be looking to replace him. It doesn’t make sense, not when he is signed to a club-friendly contract and still in his pre-prime.

AROUND THE HORN


• Grady Sizemore likely will sign with a high-revenue team that is willing to give him approximately the value of the $9 million club option that the Indians declined.

But don’t rule out the Indians just yet.

The Indians’ training staff knows Sizemore better than any club’s and could help position him to achieve a better platform for free agency on a one-year deal.

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Sizemore is willing to play left but prefers to remain in center, sources say. He lacks the arm for right.

• The Orioles, who claimed right-hander Darren O’Day off waivers while trying to hire a GM, are trying to add more pitching depth in the six-year, minor league free-agent market.

Right-hander Dylan Bundy, the team’s No. 1 pick last June, made a strong impression on club officials in the Instructional League. His older brother, 21-year-old Bobby, is coming off a successful season at Single A Frederick, and the Orioles likely will invite him to major league camp as well. Dylan, who turns 19 on Nov. 15, gets an automatic invitation; he signed a major league contract.

• Look for the Phillies to promote Ryne Sandberg to bench coach if Pete Mackanin is named manager of either the Cubs or Red Sox.

If that happens, the Phillies will need a Triple A manager to replace Sandberg — and former Cubs manager Mike Quade would be one possibility.

Amazing how the baseball world turns: Quade beat out Sandberg for the Cubs’ major league job a year ago.

Tagged: Orioles, Indians, Royals, Brewers, Twins, Cubs, Phillies, Cardinals, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Albert Pujols, Michael Cuddyer, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Billy Butler, John Mayberry

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