Updated Aug. 31, 8:50 a.m.
San Francisco Giants home run leader Andrew McCutchen is headed to the New York Yankees in a waiver wire trade. The news broke Thursday night, was reported first by Buster Olney of ESPN and confirmed by the Giants on Friday.
The deal sends McCutchen — who is hitting .255 with 15 home runs and a .772 OPS in 130 games — to New York in exchange for shortstop Abital Avelino and minor league right-handed pitcher Juan De Paula.
The deal comes before the deadline for contending teams to acquire players and have them be eligible for postseason play. The Giants are currently seven games out of first place in the National League West, and McCutchen led the team in on-base percentage, OPS, home runs, doubles and RBIs.
McCutchen, a former National League MVP during his nine years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was in the midst of his first season in San Francisco after an offseason trade. He had already greatly contributed to the clubhouse culture, and played a very solid right field for the Giants. His contract, though, was onerous — $14.75 million (of which the Pirates picked up $2.5 million) — and he is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
New York is in need of some punch without the injured Aaron Judge, and McCutchen — whose 15 homers would rank seventh on the Yankees — could provide that. Yankees outfielders are slashing .201/.297/.336 in the month of August, and Judge — who plays right field — hasn’t swung a bat since suffering a chip fracture in his wrist on July 26.
McCutchen, though, has been having the worst season of his career, after five All-Star campaigns with the Pirates.
McCutchen, who turns 32 in October, is currently on pace to set career full-season lows in batting, RBIs (55; he’s never had fewer than 79 in at least 130 games), hits (123 in 130 games is lower than his career-low 124 in 108 games as a rookie in 2009) and runs scored (65 in 130 games is by far the lowest of his career since his rookie year). His on-base percentage is the second-lowest of his career and his .415 slugging percentage is also a career low.
For the Giants to get something — anything — for McCutchen has to be seen as a win. Both Avelino and De Paula were among the Yankees’ top 30 prospects.
Avelino is hitting .287 between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He hit .337 for the Thunder, but struggled to adjust to the higher level, hitting .252 with the RailRiders. He does have 15 homers — five in 74 games at Triple-A.
De Paula, 20, started nine games in short-season rookie ball this year, and had a 1.71 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings.
The move would mean more time for Austin Slater, Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence in the outfield, with rookie Steven Duggar out for the season due to a torn left shoulder labrum. Playing Pence more would allow the veteran outfielder to show a bit for scouts. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
There’s also the more intriguing option: It means power-hitting prospect Chris Shaw is coming up. While the Giants were still somewhat in the contention conversation despite the losses of Buster Posey, an abbreviated season for Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto undergoing Tommy John, Brandon belt missing a month and Evan Longoria missing a month, the injury to Slater — who had begun to heat up — likely was the final nail in the 2018 coffin.
Though San Francisco may not want to start Shaw’s clock, if the Giants do go younger in 2019, it would be with an outfield of Slater, Duggar and Shaw. Shaw currently has 24 homers and 64 RBIs, to go along with 20 doubles at Triple-A Sacramento