Former All-Star Michael Cuddyer bolts, leaves Rockies for New York Mets

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The New York Mets announced its signing of former Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer using this photo on Twitter. (Credit: Twitter / New York Mets)

DENVER — Michael Cuddyer, one of the top free agent signings for the Colorado Rockies in recent memory, signed with the New York Mets on Monday, leaving the team after three up-and-down years in Colorado.

The Rockies had extended Cuddyer a $15.3 million qualifying offer, nearly $5 million more than he made a season ago, which he had until 3 p.m. Monday to accept. That offer price tag is a standardized number set by Major League Baseball and determined by averaging the league’s top 125 salaries.

Since Cuddyer rejected the qualifying offer to sign with the Mets, the Mets now owe the Rockies a first-round draft pick, per the stipulations of the league’s qualifying-offer process.

Though Cuddyer won the National League batting title during an All-Star season with the Rockies in 2013, the 35-year-old played in just 49 games last season as he dealt with shoulder and hamstring injuries.

Had Cuddyer accepted the Rockies’ offer, four players — the others being Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge De la Rosa — would have made up 70 percent of the team’s total payroll for the upcoming season.

Though the Rockies had said they were interested in keeping Cuddyer, no MLB player has accepted a qualifying offer since the inception of the process in 2012. The Rockies are expected to use the money they would’ve spent on Cuddyer to acquire a new starting pitcher, which might be a more prudent investment considering Rockies pitchers had the worst team earned run average in baseball last season.

What’s more, had Cuddyer accepted the qualifying offer, the team likely would have had to jostle their lineup to find a place for him, as youngster Corey Dickerson thrived in left field last season and Gonzalez shifted to Cuddyer’s typical spot in right field.

Cuddyer could have spent some time at first base, though Justin Morneau, a player Cuddyer urged the Rockies to sign, was the National League batting champion as the full-time starter there last season.