In a surprising twist, New York Mets’ outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer has decided to retire from Major League Baseball, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.
Got confirmation: Michael Cuddyer retiring
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) December 12, 2015
Cuddyer, 36, signed with the Mets prior to the 2015 season on a two-year, $21 million deal after rejecting a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies. In his first — and only — season with the Mets, Cuddyer hit just.259 with 10 HR and 41 RBI through 117 games. In the postseason, Cuddyer recorded only one hit in 11 at bats.
In a piece for the Players’ Tribune, Cuddyer wrote about his decision to retire.
“With one year left on my contract, it is especially difficult to imagine not suiting up in a Mets uniform for one more year,” Cuddyer wrote. “But after 15 years, the toll on my body has finally caught up to me.”
Looking to fill a void in the outfield last season, Cuddyer was expected to provide a solid bat and clubhouse presence to a young, inexperienced team.
After a nice start to the season as the Mets’ full-time left fielder, Cuddyer spoke to VAVEL, saying that he hopes the team could make a run in the second half.
“It’s been fun, you know, we’ve got a really good team, group of talented guys. Obviously, our starting pitching has been carrying us right now; hopefully, we can continue winning and have a good run into the second half of the season.”
Injuries hampered Cuddyer’s production toward the end of the first half and into much of the second. Also, with top prospect Michael Conforto’s promotion and the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, Cuddyer was relegated into a platoon role.
While the Mets’ outfield was set for 2016, Cuddyer was still expected to serve as a platoon option with the youngster Conforto. Also, Cuddyer would have likely backed up Lucas Duda at first base.
By retiring, Cuddyer forfeits his entire $12.5 million salary for the 2016 season, but Rubin reports that there may be a buyout involved. That is yet to be confirmed, however. Even if there is a buyout involved, Cuddyer’s retirement gives the Mets a considerable increase in financial flexibility this offseason.
Despite his underwhelming final season, Cuddyer will retire as one of the most productive outfielders of his era.
Spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the Minnesota Twins, Cuddyer showed his consistency by averaging 16 HR and 69 RBI from 2004-2011. Cuddyer’s play was generally solid and included some strong seasons — including a 32 HR season in 2009 — but he made only one All-Star team in Minnesota (2011).
After 2011, Cuddyer left Minnesota to sign a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Rockies. Speaking to reporters — including Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com — in a conference call, Cuddyer spoke of the difficulty in leaving the Twins.
“It was extremely tough. You guys know the relationship I have with the Twins organization, the fans and the community that [my wife] Claudia and I tried to entrench ourselves in. So aside from the baseball fact, it was extremely tough because of the relationships we developed.”
It was in Colorado where Cuddyer continued to display his hitting prowess. Cuddyer enjoyed a typically productive season in 2012, hitting.260 with 16 HR and 58 RBI. But in 2013, Cuddyer’s.331 batting average led the entire National League, earning him his first batting title and second All-Star game selection.
It was after 2013 that injuries set in, as Cuddyer only played in 49 games the following season. He still managed to post an impressive.332 batting average in that time, but the lack of plate appearances hurt his chances at winning consecutive batting titles.
Cuddyer will retire a lifetime.277 hitter with 197 HR and 794 RBI in 15 seasons.
[Featured Image by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]