NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Mets made baseball’s first splash of the offseason, agreeing Monday to a two-year contract with two-time All-Star outfielder Michael Cuddyer worth about $21 million.
The 2013 NL batting champion became the first top free agent to switch teams since the World Series. Cuddyer, who turns 36 in March, had until later in the day to decide whether to accept a $15.3 million qualifying offer from Colorado.
Cuddyer hit .332 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs this year in a season interrupted by injuries.
He was limited to 49 games and was on the disabled list three times because of a strained left shoulder and a strained left hamstring. From mid-April to early September, he spent of a part of each month on the DL.
The Mets went 79-83 last season and are hoping to contend for a playoff spot next year, boosted by a strong rotation helped by the return of ace Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.
New York hit .239 as a team last year, 28th in the majors, and wanted to add a hitter or two this offseason. Their fans pointed to another stat – playing in a major market, they finished the regular season 21st in payroll at under $93 million – and hoped the team would spend what it took to improve.
“Michael is a tremendous addition to the middle of our lineup,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “He is a proven offensive threat who also brings versatility in the field with the ability to play multiple positions.”
Cuddyer made 35 starts in right field last year, along with 11 at first base and two at third base.
Cuddyer joins a lineup where Daniel Murphy was the leading hitter at .289. All-Star third baseman David Wright had a down season and finished with an injured shoulder, while first baseman Lucas Duda provided pop with 30 home runs.
In the Mets’ outfield, Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove last week in center. Curtis Granderson hit .227 with 20 homers while mostly playing right and Chris Young, Eric Young Jr. and several others shared left.
Cuddyer hit .331 with the Rockies in 2013, along with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs. He was the NL’s starting designated hitter in the All-Star game that year at Citi Field.
The Mets are moving in the fences in right field at Citi Field for next season. A right-hander hitter, Cuddyer has sprayed the ball around over the years.
Cuddyer is a .279 hitter with a .347 on-base percentage in 14 seasons with Colorado and Minnesota, and hit a career-high 32 homers in 2009 with the Twins.
Cuddyer played in the postseason in six years with Minnesota, hitting .338 in 22 playoff games.
By signing Cuddyer, the Mets lose their first-round draft pick in June, the 15th choice overall.
Colorado gets an extra pick between the first and second round. The Rockies lost 96 last season, second-most in the majors to Arizona’s 98.
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