SAN FRANCISCO — You can disagree with some of the moves — or many of them — the Giants have made over the past couple of years while sinking to 98 losses, but give them credit for one thing: They certainly don’t shy away from big names.
With the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes dragging on, the Giants are now for the first time connected to Andrew McCutchen. He has always had fans in the organization, for good reason, and on Wednesday morning Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that the Giants have been in contact with the Pirates and he could be a target if Stanton goes elsewhere.
On the surface, McCutchen would be a blockbuster acquisition. He’s a former MVP and finished in the top five of the voting for four consecutive seasons. He is Pittsburgh’s Buster Posey, and who wouldn’t want that?
But does the 31-year-old actually make sense as Plan B? Here’s a closer look:
Why He Fits: After a downturn in 2016, McCutchen’s offensive numbers rebounded in 2017. He posted a .363 on-base percentage, 28 homers, 88 RBI and an OPS+ of 121. By any metric, he would be the best hitting outfielder on the roster, and he could give Posey a sidekick and provide the offense with the right-handed pop that is so sorely needed.
At 31, McCutchen should still have plenty left, and he would be in a contract year. That’s another reason why this is a good fit. With some creative accounting and perhaps another trade, the Giants could absorb all or most of McCutchen’s $14.75 million and stay under or right at the tax, and he wouldn't add to their financial issues going forward. After a couple years of trade rumors, he doesn’t figure to be too expensive in terms of prospects, either.
If you’re just talking about his offensive profile and his contract, McCutchen — also known as a good clubhouse guy — is the perfect fit for an aging team trying to take one last shot at the postseason.
Why He Doesn’t Fit: Of course, defense matters. It matters a lot to the Giants in particular after the way 2017 played out. They have made fixing the outfield defense a priority, and putting McCutchen in center field would fly in the face of everything management has talked about over the last several months.
Per FanGraphs, McCutchen was worth negative 16 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017, making him one of the three worst defensive center fielders in the big leagues (the Giants already have the worst). This wasn’t a one-year fluke, either. McCutchen's defensive metrics have been brutal over the last couple of years and the Pirates actually moved him to right field before Starling Marte’s suspension wrecked their plans.
The Giants went down this road with Angel Pagan and then again with Denard Span. At some point, a player needs to move to a corner, as Span now will, and they absolutely can’t look at McCutchen as a stopgap in center field, not with the story told by his defensive numbers and the eye test.
If McCutchen is being looked at for left field or right, he’s a nice fit. But the Giants already owe Span and Hunter Pence about $30 million, so it’s hard to see a path forward that includes those two, McCutchen, and a new defensive-minded center fielder. That’s not a reasonable allocation of resources for a team with so many holes to fill.