News that the San Francisco Giants traded for Andrew McCutchen broke shortly before midday Monday. By 5 p.m., the team announced the deal was done.
“It’s no secret that we were looking to further add run production to our lineup,” baseball operations boss Brian Sabean said in a statement. “Anytime you have the opportunity to bring aboard someone with such a track record, you have to jump on it.”
So the Giants are viewing the move as a no-brainer. And why wouldn’t they? McCutchen is a former MVP and fills a major need in the outfield. He adds starpower and could be due a bounceback season with a change of scenery.
But things are rarely that simple. Here’s a breakdown of the trade that took the Giants a step closer to putting together a 2013 All-Star team:
WHAT DID THE GIANTS GET?
McCutchen and $2.5 million to offset part of the $14.5 million he’s due this season.
For most of his eight-year career, McCutchen was one of the best outfielders in the National League. He was the Most Valuable Player in 2013. He’s a five-time All Star. He’s won Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves.
But that hasn’t been the case recently.
In the last two seasons, he’s seen slippage at the plate and in the field. His relationship with the Pirates started to sour when manager Clint Hurdle wanted to move him to a corner outfield spot and drop him down the order last year. In May of last season, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Paul Ziese wrote that it was time for the fading superstar and team to file for divorce.
Was it a sign that McCutchen simply needed a new team to get back to his old ways? Possibly, but analysis that show a drop in bat speed and exit velocity don’t help the long-term outlook.
With that said, the Giants aren’t making a long-term gamble on McCutchen. He’s got one year left on his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent. If it works with him in the lineup, great, San Francisco will have the inside track on keeping him around. And if it doesn’t work, he’s free to test his worth in the open market.
WHO DID THE GIANTS LOSE?
Pitcher Kyle Crick, outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation.
That’s far from an insignificant loss. Crick showed some serious promise as a reliever in 2017. He was one of the few bright spots among the young guys who got an extended look as the Giants stumbled to a 98-loss season. Reynolds was the No. 4 prospect in San Francisco’s system before being dealt.
In 32.1 innings pitched in 2017, the 25-year-old Crick accumulated a 3.06 ERA (138 ERA+) with 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He was the Giants’ first-round pick in 2011, and he had a dynamite 2013 season in single-A San Jose, where he carried a 1.57 ERA across 68.2 innings.
Reynolds had range in the outfield and a plus arm. At the plate, he hit .312 with 16 home runs and 101 RBI in 177 minor-league games.
If either of those guys develop into everyday contributors at the major-league level, this deal has the potential to sting Giants fans badly. But there’s no sure thing with prospects and the notion that San Francisco could be the beneficiary of a buy-low situation on a player with McCutchen’s pedigree was too much to pass up.
WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR THE GIANTS?
They are really serious about patching together anything resembling a contender.
Trading for McCutchen is in line with their move to add Evan Longoria earlier this offseason.
The thinking is, big names will keep the seats at AT&T Park filled and that the team wasn’t as far off from competing as their record would suggest.
McCutchen got famous by being able to do a little bit of everything: He’ll get on base, he’ll hit for a little bit of power from the right side of the plate, and he’ll be serviceable in one of the corner spots of the outfield. He’s also durable, playing in at least 145 games since his rookie year.
One final note that can’t be overlooked: The Giants fancy McCutchen as a leader.
“Andrew is a dynamic player on the field and will be a leader in our clubhouse,” manager Bruce Bochy said in a statement. “He’s always been a threat at the plate and he’s a guy you don’t ever want to deal with whether he’s at the plate or on the bases; he’s going to make something happen.”
The San Francisco clubhouse needed an injection of something, anything new last season. It was obvious from the early part of the season. Adding a dynamic player and personality can only help in that respect — even if his best years were spent in Pittsburgh.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE GIANTS?
They still need another outfielder.
In an ideal world, they’d complete the position group with Lorenzo Cain, who is still available.
Cheaper options are out there too: Cameron Maybin, Austin Jackson, Carlos Gomez and/or Eric Young Jr. are all intriguing for different reasons.
Putting aside that hole in the outfield, it might be time for fans to abandon their hopes for a power hitter to completely change the identity of the lineup. Those were put on life support when Giancarlo Stanton said “no thanks” to the Bay Area and the trade for McCutchen kills whatever was left.
The Giants love their brand. They’re committed to being a team that beats you by playing sound defense and keeping the line moving on offense. That isn’t changing, even if the leaguewide power surge of 2017 maintains into the new year.
SHOULD GIANTS FANS BE HAPPY?
Sure. The front office is trying, and that still counts for something. Besides, Giants fans aren’t allowed to be anything but happy after winning three titles in five seasons. That’s something that can’t be said enough.