Yesterday, I wrote about an unlikely Yasmani Grandal–A.J. Pollock swap. As much sense as it makes on paper, the whole “Diamondbacks are good” thing continues to be the issue with that trade. One trade idea that isn’t nearly as unrealistic involves the Pirates and a particular outfielder.
It seems Andrew McCutchen has been on the trading block for more than a year now. The Dodgers have been loosely connected to him in the past, and — citing the same article from Ken Gurnick in yesterday’s post — McCutchen is, again, loosely connect to the Dodgers. After clearing up some money for the rest of the offseason, I’m not sure there are many better ways to spend some of that newfound money than on one of the best players of the last almost a decade in McCutchen.
McCutchen, 31, had a down 2016 season that saw him post a .256/.336/.430 slash line with a 105 wRC+ and a 0.6 WAR. A lot of that low WAR total could be attributed to defense, as he was still playing center field where he had an eye-popping -28 defensive runs saved. He rebounded in 2017 — still playing primarily center field because of Starling Marte‘s performance-enhancing drug suspension — to hit .279/.363/.486 with a 122 wRC+ and a 3.7 WAR (even with -16 DRS!). A lot of folks wanted to give up on him after his ’16 season, but it turns out it’s usually a good thing to bet on elite or near-elite players. Now, he might not be the guy he was from 2012-15 (157 wRC+) when he took home the 2013 NL MVP, but he’s still capable of being a difference-maker. And in the Dodgers’ lineup, he’d just make them that much more dangerous.
Cutch mashed against lefties last season to the tune of a 189 wRC+. If you want a negative, he had just a 103 wRC+ against righties, but with Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo still around, getting Cutch a day off against righties every once in awhile wouldn’t be the worst thing.
His addition would be strictly on a 1-year basis, as he’s owed $14.5 million in the final year of his deal. With the Dodgers having roughly $20-21 million to spend under the $197 million luxury tax, McCutchen would take up a large portion of that. But if the Dodgers did acquire him, they could afford to trade Grandal (projected $7.7 million), Logan Forsythe ($8.5 million), Hyun-Jin Ryu ($7.63 million) or Pederson ($2 million) to give them cushion under the luxury tax as Cutch would provide that impact upgrade over any of them. McCutchen also likely wouldn’t factor into the Dodgers’ future plans, and thus wouldn’t have any negative impact on their ability to spend in free agency next winter.
Defensively, as I laid out above, he isn’t a center fielder anymore. The only other position he has played is right field, and that was for 115 1/3 innings at the beginning of last season (2 DRS, 1.4 UZR/150). If you’ve forgotten, Yasiel Puig mans right field for these Dodgers and isn’t moving. That leaves left field, where McCutchen — in theory — should be at least average out there. An outfield of McCutchen-Taylor-Puig would be, in a word, incredible. I don’t see this being much of a speed bump.
So, what’s McCutchen’s trade value? Despite coming off a poor 2016, it might have actually been higher since he had an extra year of control. Now, he could be had for a reasonable package of prospects.
The Pirates still have Marte, Gregory Polanco and prospect Austin Meadows, so I’m not sure how interested they would be in the likes of Pederson, Toles or Verdugo. If the deal is expanded to include another team (and that wouldn’t be surprising), then maybe one of those guys is on the table, but my guess is they’d want young pitching. So, let’s see who fits that criterion.
- Imani Abdullah
- Yadier Alvarez
- Walker Buehler
- Caleb Ferguson
- Dustin May
- Trevor Oaks
- Dennis Santana
- Jordan Sheffield
- Brock Stewart
- Mitchell White
OK, we can immediately cross off Buehler. I’d almost like to exclude White from any proposal as well. And I’m not sure how eager the Dodgers are to trade Stewart, but it’s a possibility. Alvarez could headline a deal and reduce the overall prospect cost, but giving up on his arm for one year of McCutchen might not make the most sense. Everybody else would have to be on the table. Position players like Gavin Lux, DJ Peters or Will Smith could also be of interest to the Pirates. Overall, it might only take a couple guys to land McCutchen.
The Dodgers and Pirates previously hooked up on a deal for Tony Watson in July. It cost them infielder (future outfielder) Oneil Cruz and right-handed flamethrower Angel German. Neither of them are the caliber of prospect able to get McCutchen, but a deal involving one pitcher and one position player could make sense.
The Pirates are in a precarious position. They’ve had a few good years, but it’s probably time for them to rebuild as their former cheap, productive players aren’t so cheap anymore. McCutchen is about the perfect player the Dodgers could acquire for a short-term commitment. I’m not sure it’ll happen, but if the Dodgers want to make a big splash this offseason, fewer players make more sense than McCutchen.