Josh Willingham Helps Minnesota Twins Fans Forget Cuddyer and Kubel

Kaleb Smith@Kaleb SmithCorrespondent IApril 20, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 07: Josh Willingham #16 of the Minnesota Twins waits for the pitch against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 7, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The offseason for the Minnesota Twins took a mysterious course, as the team failed to re-sign two of the its marquee players.  Both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer left during the winter in the trail of free agency, as the Twins focused on pursuing the typical “small ball” the organization is known for.

The Minnesota front office had to make a final decision when it came between Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer.  Last season marked Cuddyer’s best season with the team and a place on the American League All-Star team.  Kubel struggled over the course of last season while he had been plagued with injuries, much like many other Twins, though managed to appear in 99 of the 162 scheduled games.

The Twins faced a decision of keeping one player over the other, and with too many holes, the team elected to pursue Kubel harder than Cuddyer.  As an organization under strict salary concerns, the team ended up losing out on both Cuddyer and Kubel, as both were offered lucrative contracts by other teams.  Cuddyer hiked up the Rockies of Colorado, while the venom of the Diamondbacks lured Kubel into Arizona.

Fortunately for the team and fans dying for a return to American League greatness, Minnesota signed Josh Willingham.  The veteran outfielder obtained a three-year, $21 million contract to bring his skills to the Twin Cities.  Before the season had gotten underway, the doubts swirled as many questioned how Willingham would fair in the Twins system.  For Minnesota, it did not take long for Willingham to showcase what hid behind his bat.

Who would have thought someone other than Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer would lead the way with home runs and RBIs?  Not a soul, but the newly-added outfielder has proven to manager Ron Gardenhire and fellow Twins fans that he is the real deal. 

Not only does Willingham lead the Twins in home runs with five, but he is tied for second in all of the American League.  He even has lofted up a solid nine RBIs in the early season, as he has proven to be a nice addition to the offense.

Willingham versus Cuddyer and Kubel:

Cuddyer and Kubel were fan favorites for many, yet the addition of Willingham has certainly helped ease the pain felt by their departures.  As the season continues its youthful course, Kubel has not been impressive in a Diamondbacks' uniform.  He is batting a .243 mark with no home runs and only 4 RBIs, not quite as impressive as the new Twins outfielder. 

Different from Kubel, outfielder Cuddyer has found success in his new home in the mountains of Colorado.  Currently, Cuddyer has kept up his stellar stats from last year and continues to push forward, as he has compiled a solid .370 batting average with two home runs and eight RBIs.


Willingham with Morneau and Mauer:

Typically, Mauer would sit perched at the three spot while Morneau backs him up at the four slot in the batting order.  But this year Gardenhire has spruced up the lefties.  Willingham has stepped in to the four spot and has helped take pressure off of the Twins first baseman.  Certainly, Willingham has gained from this experience, and the reaction has helped balance the Twins offense.


Remaining Season for Willingham and Twins:

Willingham will continue to play a vital role not only offensively, but also defensively, as he leads the outfield alongside Denard Span.  The Minnesota Twins were finally able to sign a player capable of not only becoming a fan favorite, but also giving the team a reliable power source.  As long as Mauer and Morneau stay healthy, Willingham will complete a power trio capable of lighting up the score board and pushing the Twins back to the holy land, the American League playoffs.