Leaving Minnesota bittersweet for Cuddyer

Leaving Minnesota bittersweet for Cuddyer

Leaving Minnesota bittersweet for Cuddyer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Michael Cuddyer spoke with local Minnesota reporters in a conference call Tuesday night, conveying that the decision to leave the Twins for the Rockies wasn't an easy one.

Cuddyer was introduced in a press conference in Colorado earlier in the day after his three-year contract worth $31.5 million became official.

The 32-year-old veteran said he's excited about joining the Rockies, but admitted it's difficult to leave Minnesota after playing parts of 11 seasons with the Twins.

"It was extremely tough," Cuddyer said. "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."

Cuddyer said that the Twins decided to venture in a different direction by going with Josh Willingham instead, as they signed the free-agent outfielder to a three-year, $21 million deal last week.

He also said that the Twins did not try to ramp up their efforts to sign him after acquiring Willingham, an indication that the club had decided to move on after waiting for him to make a decision.

"Obviously, there were talks, but I think basically what it boils down to is that the direction was different," Cuddyer said. "There were things they had in mind, and obviously there were other choices. It came down to a business decision and they chose to go with Willingham and two Draft picks. I can't criticize that decision. It was the decision they made, and ultimately we moved on from that."

Cuddyer added that it was even tougher to leave the Twins because of his respect for general manager Terry Ryan, who took over for Bill Smith on Nov. 7. But Cuddyer said he's leaving Minnesota without any burned bridges, and will always cherish the time he spent with the organization since being drafted in 1997.

"Anytime you're at a place that long, it's bittersweet," Cuddyer said. "There's no doubt about that. I'm not mad. I have no hard feelings toward anybody. That organization gave me a chance to play and realize my dream of being a Major League Baseball player. They fulfilled every obligation toward me for the last 14, almost 15, years. That's all I could've asked for, and in return I gave them all I had for the same amount of time."

He added that the Twins' struggles in 2011 -- they finished with the worst record in the American League -- didn't factor into his decision.

Cuddyer, long known as a clubhouse leader, admitted there were some accountability problems that plagued the team, but that it wasn't a deciding issue for him.

"I think last year was obviously disappointing, but I was a part of it," Cuddyer said. "I was just a much of that 99-loss season as anybody. So for me to blame last season on the way this resolved itself wouldn't be fair at all."

Cuddyer, though, wouldn't get into what specific circumstances would've brought him back to Minnesota because the talks never got serious enough. It was widely reported during the Winter Meetings that the Twins had a three-year offer worth $24-25 million on the table for Cuddyer.

"It never really got to that point because that was never in front of me," Cuddyer said. "I can't say, 'This or that would've got it done.' With the circumstances at hand, I wasn't able to do that and basically that's all I can say. The Rockies were able to do things the Twins weren't."

The Rockies simply impressed Cuddyer because of their level of commitment toward signing him, as they even traded players such as Huston Street and Ian Stewart to clear salary.

Cuddyer also received phone calls from general manager Dan O'Dowd, manager Jim Tracy and star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki during the recruiting process.

"Once the Winter Meetings rolled around, Dan O'Dowd gave me a call and expressed their excitement," Cuddyer said. "They made moves to bring me into the Colorado Rockies organization. They traded Huston Street and Ian Stewart to try and make a run at me. To show that level of commitment, I was blown away by that. It went a long way toward me making my decision."

Cuddyer is also switching from No. 5 to No. 3 this season, as he's changing his number to honor Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who passed away in May after a bout with esophageal cancer. Carlos Gonzalez currently wears No. 5 for the Rockies, but Cuddyer said he was going to switch to No. 3 anyways.

"I think no matter where I would've gone, even if No. 5 was available, I would've wanted to switch to No. 3," Cuddyer said. "I have the utmost respect for Harmon Killebrew. I can't think of a better person's number to have on your back. So to go out there every day and play the game and try to represent it well means a lot."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.