SAN FRANCISCO — Andrew McCutchen is headed for the postseason, but not with the Giants.
The club sent McCutchen, the big offseason acquisition, to the New York Yankees on Friday in exchange for middle infielder Abiatal Avelino and pitcher Juan De Paula. The Giants also sent cash to the Yankees to cover part of McCutchen's remaining salary.
The deal was finalized on the final day players can be traded and still be eligible to play in the postseason for their new team. The Yankees lead the American League Wild Card race by 4 1/2 games over the A’s, but they are without star right fielder Aaron Judge, and it’s unclear when he will return from a wrist injury.
The Giants hoped to make one last charge, but a loss Wednesday left them hopelessly behind three teams in the NL West, with Buster Posey already on the shelf and Steven Duggar likely headed for season-ending shoulder surgery. There was no point in holding onto McCutchen, a free agent at the end of the season, any longer.
McCutchen was thought to be a potential acquisition for a contender at the July 31 deadline, but interest back then was lukewarm, and even when he cleared waivers last week, the Giants did not find a particular strong market. The Cleveland Indians were in on McCutchen early, but apparently backed away in recent days. In New York, he may find a better shot to get that first ring. The Giants always try to do right by their players when they can, and in sending him to Yankee Stadium, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans have given the former MVP perhaps his best shot at grabbing that elusive ring.
For the Giants, this allows them to get a couple of prospects back seven months after trading Kyle Crick and minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds for McCutchen, who had a solid season but was not able to bring the offense back to life. It is not the return one might have expected six weeks ago, but the Giants appear to have done a decent job of adding to their system given the market they were dealing with this late in the season.
Avelino, 23, is the Yankees’ No. 23 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. De Paula, 20, ranked No. 26 in a system that is considered far better than the Giants’ system.
Avelino had a .945 OPS in Double-A this season but has struggled since a promotion, posting a .252/.291/.372 slash line in 74 Triple-A games. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 with Miguel Andujar and Luis Severino, Avelino is known for having a good arm and versatility that allows him to play second, short or third. His main calling card in the minors has been speed — he stole 54 bases in 2015 — and MLB Pipeline profiles him as a utility infielder. The Giants are short on quality middle infielders in the upper minors, though, and Avelino could be an option for them at some point next season.
De Paula, a right-handed starter, had a 1.71 ERA in 10 appearances — nine starts — in A ball. He sits in the mid 90s with his fastball and is believed to be a potential back-end starter down the line.
This trade will also, once and for all, put the Giants well clear of the luxury tax line. They already were projected to be under no matter what they did in September, but this gives them a bit more breathing room. Perhaps it also will open an opportunity for Chris Shaw, who has 24 homers in Triple-A but was not in the initial call-up plans.
The Giants were never going to put a qualifying offer on McCutchen, but they still could try to bring him back in the offseason. He was a popular teammate and a favorite of manager Bruce Bochy, and some who have spoken to him about his time in San Francisco believe he would be open to playing here next year.
At the time of the trade, McCutchen led the Giants in homers (15), RBI (55), runs (65), stolen bases (13) and appearances (130). He had a .772 OPS for the Giants and was hitting atop the lineup.
McCutchen’s first road games with his third big league team will actually come in the Bay Area. The Yankees begin a three-game series in Oakland on Monday.