Andrew McCutchen is not as fast as he once was. The days of him beating out an infield single to shortstop or third base are mostly over, as are the days of his elite center field defense.
But he's still a very productive major-league player who does just about everything you want on a baseball field.
The Phillies agreed to a three-year, $50 million deal with McCutchen on Tuesday, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. It's an interesting move.
McCutchen and Jean Segura lengthen the Phillies' lineup, no doubt about it. They both add skills the 2018 Phillies' lineup lacked — timely hitting, a reduced strikeout rate, gap power, offensive consistency.
The Phils still have some work to do and remain heavily interested in Manny Machado. If they can add Machado to this new lineup with Segura and McCutchen, it becomes one of the best in the National League. This move does not preclude that possibility.
McCutchen is 32 years old. He seems older because he was a high-level player from his age-22 rookie season in 2009. His decline phase has set in, but he's declined from an MVP level to a very good level. It's not like he's "just a guy" at this point of his career.
These last two seasons, McCutchen has hit .267/.366/.455 and averaged 30 doubles and 24 home runs. His .820 OPS over that span is 21 percent higher than the league average. It's 40 points higher than Odubel Herrera's career-high OPS and 70 points higher than Nick Williams' last season.
Beyond the numbers, McCutchen is just a more reliable everyday player than Herrera or Williams. It's unclear who he will displace in the Phillies' outfield, but all of their outfielders — Herrera, Williams and Roman Quinn — are subject to a trade this offseason.
McCutchen did not play an inning of center field in 2018, but he did play 128 games in right field for the Giants. Right field at AT&T Park is as tricky as any outfield spot in any major-league stadium. And quite frankly, McCutchen at 32 is still a better defensive centerfielder than Herrera at 26.
The Phillies these last two weeks have essentially swapped out J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana for Jean Segura and McCutchen. Both are big upgrades. McCutchen can replace all of Santana's plate selection, just with more hits, more speed, more defensive versatility and equal or more power. McCutchen walked 95 times this past season.
The other thing to really like about McCutchen is his durability. He's averaged 155 games played since 2010.
Some fans will get hung up on the number — really, $50 million for a past-his-prime Andrew McCutchen? — but the money in this instance shouldn’t be the sticking point. The Phillies have a ton of it, there's no salary cap, and this investment won’t hinder any other during the three-year life of the contract. Signing Andrew McCutchen today won’t prevent a big splash down the road.
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