Giants

Pros and cons: Should Giants seriously pursue Andrew McCutchen?

Pros and cons: Should Giants seriously pursue Andrew McCutchen?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants and Pirates nearly pulled off a trade in July when Bobby Evans sought a closer and zeroed in on Mark Melancon. Ultimately, Pirates GM Neil Huntington shipped Melancon to Washington D.C., but the two teams could be connected again as the winter meetings approach. 

Pittsburgh’s star outfielder, Andrew McCutchen, is reportedly available — very available. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Huntington and the Pirates are calling potential suitors, with the Nationals, Rangers and Mariners listed as teams that have discussed a McCutchen deal. 

At first glance, it’s remarkable that this point has even been reached. This is nearly the equivalent of the Giants putting Buster Posey on the market. McCutchen, drafted 11th overall in 2005, has spent the better part of a decade as the face of a franchise that has gone from the cellar to perennial contention. He’s a a five-time All-Star and won the National League’s MVP award in 2014.  

McCutchen has helped revitalize the Pirates, but they’re still the Pirates, and they’re still constrained by a strict budget. Pittsburgh has two outfield building blocks in Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, with prospect Austin Meadows on the way. They reportedly are set on moving McCutchen.

It’s not a question of if Evans will end up on the other end of one of those phone calls. The Giants always do their due diligence, and they could use help in the outfield. The question is should the Giants seriously pursue McCutchen, and if they do, can they actually get him? Here are the pros and cons … 

Pro: I mean, he’s Andrew McCutchen. Even with a “down year” in 2016, he leads all NL players in WAR (28.6 per FanGraphs) over the past five seasons. He’s a .292 career hitter with a .381 on-base percentage and six consecutive 20-homer seasons. McCutchen’s OPS dropped more than 100 points last season, but he still hit 24 homers, seven more than any Giant. In theory, McCutchen would add a very dangerous right-handed bat to a team that’s ready to win now. 

Con: Is he still THAT version of Andrew McCutchen? The drop off in 2016 was steep in certain respects. McCutchen’s .336 OBP was a career-low by nearly 30 points. His slugging percentage has dipped more than 100 points over the past two seasons. He stole just six bases in 13 attempts. Most concerning: McCutchen’s fielding metrics fell off a cliff. The former Gold Glove winner was worth negative 28 defensive runs saved per FanGraphs. By comparison, Angel Pagan posted a negative 20 in 2015 and got moved to left. The Giants could acquire McCutchen to play left, but it’s unclear how he would react to switching positions given that every defensive inning of his career has been spent in center. Was 2016 a fluke or the beginning of a slide? 

Pro: Let’s say he is amendable to moving … McCutchen would balance a lineup that leans to the left, and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be an above average defender in left field. He has one guaranteed year left on his deal at a very affordable $14 million, with a $14.5 million club option for 2018. The front office could basically sit back for two years, as every starting position player but Eduardo Nunez would be under team control through the 2018 season. 

Con: The fit is an imperfect one in a number of ways. Let’s start with what it would take to actually get McCutchen. The Giants didn't offer enough to get Melancon, and a McCutchen deal would surely center around top prospects Christian Arroyo or Tyler Beede, plus other players. Joe Panik’s name might come up, too. The Pirates are reportedly asking the Nationals for minor league outfielder Victor Robles, who is a better prospect than any player the Giants have. So any potential deal would clean out a system that’s thin after trades for Nunez, Will Smith and Matt Moore. 

The financial cost is not insignificant. The Giants don’t have that much wiggle room in their budget, and a new closer will be expensive. Add a $14 million hitter and you’re looking at about $45 million for an outfield made up of three players on the wrong side of 30. For months, the Giants have signaled that they’re more comfortable giving the open playing time to young players like Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, who would be hopelessly blocked by a trade for McCutchen. 

Conclusion: If a trade does happen, it will be a crushing blow to Pirates fans. To save some face, the organization will need to get an elite player or two in return, and as always in these situations, other teams have much more to offer than the Giants. Robles, for instance, was the No. 33 prospect in the minors last season, per Baseball America. 

Even if the Giants are interested, they won’t win a bidding war. But they don’t have to. The focus has been on fixing the ninth inning, not left field, and the guess here is that it remains that way. 
 

Bruce Bochy, Ned Yost reflect on touching moment after 2014 World Series

Bruce Bochy, Ned Yost reflect on touching moment after 2014 World Series

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few minutes after his team lost the 2014 World Series in a heartbreaking way, Royals manager Ned Yost walked over to the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium and quietly slipped into Bruce Bochy’s office. With champagne still flying through the air and players getting deep into their celebrations, Yost and Bochy shook hands and had a brief conversation.  

The show of class and sportsmanship meant a lot to the winning side. That moment meant even more to Yost. 

“I’ve still got that picture hanging in my office,” he said recently. “I don’t have many pictures that I put up, but there’s that one of me and him shaking hands afterward. That one is special to me. It was a hard time because he was trying to celebrate, but I just wanted to tell him congratulations.”

Yost’s Royals will face Bochy’s Giants today in Cactus League action, and it will almost certainly be the final matchup between their teams. Bochy has announced his intention to retire, and neither team is favored to reach the postseason.

That 2014 matchup was a memorable one, though, and it still leaves Yost shaking his head. A day after Bochy announced that 2019 would be his last season, Yost, at an MLB event, recalled thinking he had gotten the better of Bochy. 

“I just remember him sending Bumgarner out in Game 7 and I just thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to kill him.’ And it just didn’t turn out that way,” Yost said. “Even to send Bumgarner out there in the ninth, it was like, ‘whoa,’ but it worked out perfectly.”

Yost and the Royals would win the next year, getting their own moment in the sun. But on that cold October night in Kansas City, Yost watched Bumgarner get out of a jam in the ninth. He watched Bochy celebrate, and then he went over to congratulate a manager he says is a surefire Hall of Famer. 

[RELATED: Bochy announces he will retire after 2019 season]

“I just have the ultimate respect for him. I’ve always admired him, his longevity, and what he has been able to do,” Yost said. “The one solace I can find, as tough as it was to lose a World Series, especially when you’re 90 feet away, is just that I lost it to my boyhood team and to a manager who I probably have more respect for than any other present manager in the game. 

“He’s right behind Bobby Cox for me. He’s accomplished everything that every manager looks to accomplish.”

Bryce Harper explains hitting at Oracle Park wasn't a factor in decision

Bryce Harper explains hitting at Oracle Park wasn't a factor in decision

When it was first reported the Giants were interested in acquiring six-time All-Star Bryce Harper, we checked the numbers on how he performed at AT&T Oracle Park.

Across his career thus far, Harper boasts a .164/.305/.284 line with just two home runs in 19 games. 

Not great, but he knew that.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal recently asked Harper if the difference in parks offensively was an issue. Harper said that wasn't a concern -- he did the homework just like you and I did.

“I saw my (home-run) overlays on each park — Nationals Park, L.A., San Fran, Philly. The overlays weren’t as crazy as people would think," Harper said in an interview with FS1.

“Hitting the ball to left-center in San Francisco, it’s a little bit of a jet stream. And I hit my balls to left-center a lot. Of course, you factor in wind and cold weather, things like that. But that was never really a factor."

Oracle Park is a terror to hitters not named Nolan Arenado or Gerardo Parra. but it can be a pitcher's best friend if said pitcher is able to take advantage of that.

[RELATED: Giants offer Harper 12-year, $310 million]

We will see if that confidence still resonates with him when he and the Phillies come to Oracle Park later this summer