Andrew McCutchen is on the trade block. Yes, the 2013 NL MVP who is under team control for the next two seasons – at a relative bargain price ($14 million in 2017, $14.5 million in 2018) – is available because the Pirates are unlikely to extend his contract and have major league-ready outfield talent in Josh Bell and Austin Meadows.
There also is the issue of McCutchen’s subpar 2016 season (he had his lowest WAR and OPS of his career, and his defensive metrics in center field took a nosedive) and his age (he turned 30 in October), though it should be noted that he finished strong (.284/.381/.471 with nine homers and 36 RBI in 56 games after Aug. 1).
The trade talk should heat up at the Winter Meetings next week, but why wait until then to speculate about where McCutchen will play in 2017? The most logical landing spots:
FOX’s Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Pirates and Nationals discussed a McCutchen blockbuster this past summer, and there’s reason to believe they could revisit those discussions. In this scenario, McCutchen or Bryce Harper could handle center field, with Trea Turner returning to the infield.
Few would-be contenders have as muddled an outfield situation as Seattle, which has Ben Gamel, Leonys Martin and Seth Smith penciled in as starters. All three hit left-handed. McCutchen could bring a much-needed right-handed presence to the group and shift to a corner spot.
Another team in need of a right-handed bat – not only in the outfield but also in the lineup in general – Los Angeles has the prospects to make a deal work. That is assuming, of course, the Dodgers don’t cash in a couple of those youngsters in exchange for an elite starting pitcher.
They’re set in center with Denard Span and in right with Hunter Pence, but left field is open now that Angel Pagan is a free agent. San Francisco’s search for a bat is well-documented, with potential trade target J.D. Martinez among the players reportedly on its radar. Yoenis Cespedes no longer is an option, but McCutchen remains a possibility.
In order to fit McCutchen into the lineup, New York would have to trade left fielder Brett Gardner (and there have been rumors of that) or scrap the plans to start rookie Aaron Judge in right field. The former seems more likely, and the Yankees have the farm system (and finances) to pull off a McCutchen deal.
Although Texas has been linked primarily to starting pitching this offseason, it has to replace the offense lost by free agents Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran and Mitch Moreland. The Rangers are set at the corners with Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo, but Desmond’s departure leaves a void in center that McCutchen could fill.
Trading McCutchen to a division rival wouldn’t be ideal, but St. Louis has a need. Left fielder Matt Holliday will leave as a free agent, and center fielder Randal Grichuk slumped badly in his second full season in 2016. The Cardinals always are in win-now mode, and McCutchen would help close the gap on the Cubs.
Hey, he doesn’t have to go anywhere. McCutchen is the face of this franchise and the anchor of one of the majors’ best outfields, and he isn’t ridiculously expensive – even for a small-market franchise. He’s coming off one bad season, which still included 24 homers, and is just 30 years old.