AT&T PARK — Major League Baseball needs more Andrew McCutchens. That was the message from San Francisco Giants Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean on Friday, after he and general manager Bobby Evans completed a trade to send McCutchen to the New York Yankees.
There were other teams interested in McCutchen, a five-time All-Star and former MVP in his nine years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Sabean wanted to find a spot that would be a “win-win-win” for the Giants, McCutchen and the team who acquired him.
“I hope he wins a ring,” Sabean said. “He’s the real deal.”
The trade not only allows McCutchen to chase a World Series ring in New York, but it also brought back two top prospects in right-hander Juan De Paula and infielder Abiatal Avelino. Perhaps most importantly, it will also allow San Francisco to get a look at of one of their own top minor league pieces, Chris Shaw, who will make his major league debut on Friday against the New York Mets.
“Simply put, we were hoping to sweep Arizona, and we didn’t, and the odds became taller,” Sabean said. “It was the prudent thing to do. Three teams in front of us, and we’re running out of games.”
When Sabean and Evans acquired the veterans McCutchen and Evan Longoria — both unrestricted free agents at the end of the year — they had an eye on not only bouncing back from a 98-loss season, but contending for a playoff spot.
“We don’t like to surrender,” Sabean said. “Contrary to some other general managers, our front office, we don’t relish the trade deadline. You’ve got people going out the door you’re invested in, and you’re never really sure of the return. We all know the drill. But, in some ways, we, for most of the year, we were in a position with one hand tied behind our back.”
Madison Bumgarner missed the first month-plus of the season. Johnny Cueto went down needing Tommy John surgery. Jeff Samardzija has missed over 100 days on the disabled list and is unlikely to return. Longoria missed more than a month with a broken hand, ditto for second baseman Joe Panik. Pablo Sandoval tore a hamstring. First baseman Brandon belt missed time with appendicitis.
On Friday, All-Star catcher Buster Posey stood outside San Francisco’s locker room on crutches, following Monday surgery on his balky right hip.
“Every week, we were taking a body blow,” Sabean said. “Guys couldn’t stay on the field, there were major injuries. I’m pretty amazed with the record, but the record could be better if we could just be league average with runners in scoring position, and if we finished some games we should have finished.”
The Giants were fifth in the major leagues in runs scored, 18th in batting with runners in scoring position (.248) and 24th in runs scored when batting with runners in scoring position.
McCutchen — San Francisco’s leader in home runs, RBIs, doubles, OPS and on-base percentage — heads from a team 7 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with 27 to play, to a team with a 4 1/2 game lead for the AL Wild Card.
“If you look at his body of work in a lineup that literally wasn’t much help to him, personally, with the trade itself — which I’m sure was jarring, with a change in venue — we liked what we saw from Cutch, on and off the field,” Sabean said. “Very honored to have him. He was a pleasure to be around. A breath of fresh air. He was as-advertised.”
Sabean did not rule out a possible reunion, saying the Giants would “possibly” seek to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
San Francisco is now seemingly focused on 2019, with the call-up of Shaw — their No. 4 prospect — and the earlier call-ups of Austin Slater and Steven Duggar, who is now injured and lost for the season. Aramis Garcia — another top-30 prospect, called up when Posey underwent surgery — will make his major league debut on Friday, along with Shaw.
“We’re about winning and developing,” Evans said. “We still try to win every game we can right now, and yet, we also get an opportunity to see Shaw, which is another opportunity to develop. We lost an opportunity in the development of Duggar, and that was a tough hit for us, but still winning and developing.”
Shaw will play regularly in the month of September, Evans said, but there won’t be many judgements made in what he called a “soft evaluation” against big league pitching.
“The decision about Shaw is very different, depending on where we are in the standings and in the race,” Evans said. “Whether he would have come up in September was somewhat dependent upon opportunity to play. I think if there’s not a trade today, we have to be measured about where we are in the race and how much playing time he’s going to get. Part of bringing up young players is giving them an opportunity to play and play consistently.”