While the Indians have pretty much spent the offseason doing little to nothing in the free agent market – you know things are slow when the “big” signing was backup catcher Mike Redmond – an interesting side story came about last week. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Indians were in a two-horse race with the Minnesota Twins for the services of Second Baseman Orlando Hudson.
GM Mark Shapiro has been a long time fan of The O-Dog, one of the best defensive second sackers in the game. Even with his infectious personality, stellar glove-work (four time Gold Glove winner) and reputation as a great team player who can hit (career .282 BA), Hudson has been one of the biggest casualties of the economic woes of many teams. Translation: He hit free agency at the worst possible time. The last two offseasons, he has been trying to sign a long-term deal with no luck.
Last year he was forced to wait until late January before signing a one-year contract with the Dodgers for $3.3 million, just above half of what he made his last year in Arizona. This winter was more of the same. The only real money for Hudson was in the form of a reported three-year offer from the sad sack Washington Nationals. He never seemed interested in making that happen and waited for something better. Those options presented themselves in the last two weeks when the Indians and Twins stepped to the table.
What you know by now is that Hudson chose the Twins on a one year, $5 million deal. It didn’t shock me one bit. The Twins payroll is expected to be around $96 million in 2010 and they are moving into their brand new, outdoor stadium, which will give them added revenue to play with. Not to mention the fact that the Twins will head into the Spring as the favorites to win the AL Central.
As for the Tribe’s pursuit of Hudson; With attendance again expected to dip in the rebuilding year that is expected, Shapiro had to get creative to add someone like Hudson. It had been earlier reported that the Indians offered him a two-year, $10 million deal, which seemed rather shocking considering how the Wahoos did everything they could to shed as much payroll as possible last season at the deadline and all winter. Well, that two for 10 wasn’t what it seemed.
Per the great Anthony Castrovince at Indians.com:
They considered the impact he could make on this club, both offensively and defensively, and decided to take a stab at him. But in order to do so, they had to get creative. Their 2010 budget isn’t any bigger now than it was a month ago. So they offered Hudson a $10 million guarantee over two years, with the vast majority of that commitment backloaded into the 2011 salary and the buyout of a 2012 club option. The 2010 commitment, I’m told, was not at all substantial.
I give Shapiro credit for trying to make this work, but it was obviously going to be an uphill battle from the beginning. So now that Hudson is a Twin, what does Shapiro’s pursuit of him say for current second base option, Luis Valbuena?
Hudson definitely would have been an upgrade from the 23-year old Valbuena at both ends. However, Valbuena is eight years younger than the O-Dog. He has shown he can play second and short effectively, has a cannon for an arm, and is a contact, line-drive hitter. Sweet Luis loves to go the other way and has shown signs of pop in his bat. The worry is that he will continue to struggle against lefties; he hit just .205 (8-39).
I for one think Valbuena is a keeper, but I can see why Shapiro went after Hudson. For the 2010 team, Valbuena as the utility man, getting AB’s behind Hudson, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta at third was not a bad idea. Now, with Valbuena as an everyday guy, suddenly the utility role is a fight between Brian Bixler, Jason Donald, and the ancient Mark Grudzielanek.
Now you know why Shapiro did his best to get Orlando Hudson.