Potential Pinstripes: Pros and cons of an Andrew McCutchen trade amid rumors

Photo Credit: AP
Recently, there have been rumors about a potential three-way trade between the Yankees, Pirates, and White Sox, that would send Pittsburgh’s star outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the Yanks, White Sox star pitcher Jose Quintana to the Pirates, and prospects to Chicago. The prospects, specifically, are listed  in a tweet from Brian Bilek, and rumors were also confirmed by Dave Williams of Barstool.

Many people probably don’t like the idea of trading for McCutchen, especially after his down year in 2016. However, I’m sure there will be a boatload of Yankees fans clamoring for the team to trade from its immense prospect depth and acquire the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player, which is why I will review both sides of the trade.

Trade for Him!

Even though McCutchen had a down year last year, he still was not awful. Far from it, actually. I mean, a slash line of .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers and 79 RBIs is not a bad year. He actually hit more homers in 2016 than he did in 2013, when he won MVP (he had 21 then). There is also no reason to think that he won’t rebound from this season. 

He is one year removed from producing a .296/.401/.488 slash line, 23 homers, 96 RBIs (which tied his career high from 2012), and a fifth place finish for the NL MVP. Not too shabby. He has also consistently hit at least 21 homers in every season since 2011, which is the type of established power the Yankees need. Much of the Yankees lineup is either unproven, or probably won’t hit too many homers, and they could use more firepower. 

If (or when) the Yankees trade Brett Gardner, McCutchen would also be a huge upgrade offensively in left field, where he is better suited than center field. He also would provide another strong veteran presence in the clubhouse, where the Yankees, surprisingly, might be lacking in 2017. When was the last time that happened? As of now, the team leaders are Matt Holliday and Gardner, along with CC Sabathia and possibly Jacoby Ellsbury. McCutchen would help provide a better environment for the younger kids such as Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Greg Bird, and mentor them for the future. He really could make a positive impact on the team for the next two years before his contract is up, and help the team get to a better position to win championship number 28.

Don’t Trade for Him!
There are many, many red flags when it comes to this trade proposal. I will try to cover as many as I can. Of course, there are many red flags in trading prospects for older players. The prospects could live up to the hype, and McCutchen might not play a single game for the Yankees due to a fluke injury. That’s the nature of the game. Of course, the prospects may not pan out either, so that's something else to keep in mind.

If you’re going to be involved in a Jose Quintana trade with the prospect power the Yankees have, why not just trade for Quintana yourself? The starting rotation is a much more pressing need for the Yankees, and Quintana is a bona fide ace under control for four more years. He’s exactly what the Yankees need. McCutchen is a 30-year-old outfielder coming off of a season in which he was worth -0.7 WAR. Yikes. 

Why would you want to trade prospects for him, when you could just trade them for Quintana? Now, the Yankees prospects mentioned in the trade proposal, Blake Rutherford and Miguel Andujar, are number five and number seven on the Yankees top 30 prospect list according to mlb.com. Personally, I really like both them. Andujar will hopefully be the third baseman of the future after Chase Headley’s contract is up, and Rutherford might be the Yankees best outfield prospect, a position where the Yanks have incredible depth. I think that this would be enough to get McCutchen, personally, but not for Quintana. Add in pieces such as Judge and Jorge Mateo and that would be a good haul for the White Sox. For such a big upgrade to the rotation, this would be worth it.

However, McCutchen would not be as big of an upgrade in the outfield. If he was to replace Gardner, the Yanks’ defense in left field would plummet. In 2016 alone, McCutchen’s defense in center was worth -28 Defensive Runs Saved. That is….not ideal, compared to Gardner’s +12. That’s a difference of 40 defensive runs saved. Of course, moving to left field would probably help him, but not as much as one would think. Even if McCutchen would be an upgrade offensively, and who’s to say he will be, he would even it out with his subpar defense.

The Verdict
Don’t trade for McCutchen. Don’t do it. Unless the Pirates are willing to swap him and Jacoby Ellsbury, don’t do it (hey, theres an probably unlikely idea…). The Yankees have so much depth in the farm system, and spending a portion of it on a risk such as McCutchen would not be a good investment. That is a move that a team wanting to win makes, such as the Nationals or the Dodgers, not a team in transition like the Yankees. The Yankees need as many solid prospects as they can develop, because not all of them will work out. They can’t afford to trade for an aging outfielder whose skill set is more or less declining. So please, Brian Cashman, don’t trade for Andrew McCutchen.

Article by: Alex Weir


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