SAN FRANCISCO — If everyone had stayed healthy, there was a chance that Friday night’s lineup would have had Andrew McCutchen hitting leadoff, Steven Duggar second, and Buster Posey third. Posey has already had surgery. Duggar is headed for surgery. McCutchen is now headed for New York.
It’s been that kind of season for the Giants, and on Friday they raised the white flag a bit higher, trading their most consistent hitter to the Yankees in exchange for two prospects. It all made sense, or should have, but in case you still have questions, here are some answers …
Why did the Giants trade their best hitter?
Simply put, they had to. They were not going to give McCutchen a qualifying offer because it’s about $4 million more than he was making this season, so once the white flag went up, the only way to get some value was to trade him away. McCutchen cleared waivers last week so the Giants could trade him anywhere.
Ok, then why didn’t they do this July 31?
First and foremost, few in the organization were ready to throw in the towel before the July 31 deadline. The front office did not feel this was a particularly strong team — thus the lack of additions — but also didn’t feel it was the right time to tear it down. They wanted to give the roster a shot to make an August run, and instead the Giants fell further behind. It seems unrealistic now, but what if the Giants had taken two of three in Cincinnati, as they should have? What if they don't implode against the Rangers? There was a very slim path to contending in September, but the Giants could have walked it had they played cleaner baseball in August. They did not, and it became time to give up.
There’s another aspect here, too. The Giants took calls on McCutchen before the initial deadline but the interest just wasn’t really there. The Cleveland Indians liked him but never went in too hard, and the Yankees weren’t as aggressive at the time. Perhaps they learned something about Aaron Judge in recent days that they did not know at the end of July when he first went down with a wrist injury.
Is McCutchen gone for good?
Not necessarily. The Giants were considering a reunion, and McCutchen, even at this stage of his career, will be one of the better outfielders available. McCutchen had talked to some teammates about returning and it’s believed he really liked playing in San Francisco, but we’ll see if those good vibes are still there in November. A reunion is certainly possible, though, and if the Giants can bring him back on a one- or two-year deal after getting prospects for him, they’ve done pretty well.
Did the Giants do well even if he doesn’t return?
It appears they did. Abiatal Avelino is ranked as the 23rd best prospect in the Yankees’ system and Juan De Paula is No. 26, according to MLB Pipeline. But it’s a much better system than the Giants’ system, and Pipeline puts them at No. 17 and 18 for the Giants after the trade.
Avelino is a 23-year-old who broke through at Double-A this season, showing power and speed, but has taken a step back in Triple-A. With the Yankees, he was hopelessly blocked, but the Giants don't have much middle infield depth in the minors, so he could have an opportunity to move quickly. It's possible he becomes part of the mix to replace Joe Panik if the Giants decide to non-tender him.
De Paula is the kind of player you want in a deal like this, a big 20-year-old who already throws pretty hard. De Paula averages a strikeout per inning but also walks too many hitters. He’s a lottery ticket, but perhaps one day down the line he’ll turn into something meaningful.
Can we stop talking about the CBT?
Yes. The Giants already were confident they would stay below it, but this finalizes it. They will stay under $197 million, resetting their penalties, and can do whatever they want in free agency this offseason.
What should the Giants do next?
They're doing what they should do: Chris Shaw has been called up, and should get an extended look over the final 27 games. The Giants need to figure out what they have in Shaw and Austin Slater. They also figure to give Hunter Pence a few starts in right field over the final two homestands of his contract.
What does this mean for McCutchen?
The Giants seem to have done pretty well, but for McCutchen, this couldn’t have worked out any better. He’s a good teammate who became a fan favorite in a second city, and he now has his best shot at winning that first ring. It’s not something McCutchen talked about often, but those close to him say there’s a desire to win, and he was hurt by the lack of a push the Pirates made when they had teams capable of making a run. The Yankees have as good a shot as anyone, and McCutchen may now get a real chance to become a postseason star. Out here, 3,000 miles away, all we can hope is that he continues to Instagram Story the whole experience.