MLB Analysis: Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen Traded to San Francisco Giants

By Matt Johnson on Monday, January 15th 2018
MLB Analysis: Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen Traded to San Francisco Giants

Just a few days after the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Gerrit Cole, they've now dealt a second franchise name. The team traded center fielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants.

FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman and Robert Murray first reported the teams were in serious talks. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal first reported the deal.

The 31-year-old outfielder, who enters the final year of his contract this coming season, posted a .279/.363/.486 slash line with a .360 wOBA, 122 wRC+, 28 home runs and 88 RBIs.

McCutchen joins a lineup that welcomed Evan Longoria earlier this offseason. The additions of Longoria and McCutchen directly address two major holes San Francisco entered with this offseason.

He should slide in immediately into one of the three outfield spots for San Francisco and represents a substantial upgrade in the outfield for the Giants.

Last season, Giants' center fielders ranked 26th in FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (1.2) and rated negatively in Offensive Rating (-9.8) and Defensive Rating (-7.3).

San Francisco's outfielders collectively struggled as a group and it resulted in a team fWAR of 0.2. For comparison, the Atlanta Braves finished with the second lowest fWAR in baseball and their OF finished with a 2.6 fWAR.

Entering the 2017 season, Pittsburgh planned to move McCutchen to the corner outfield after he finished 2016 as one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball (-16.5) and posted career-worst marks in wRC+ (105), wOBA (.329) and slugging percentage (.430).

Fortunately, he bounced back last season and returned much closer to the form fans became used to throughout his career. He even slid back into center field after MLB suspended center fielder Starling Marte, then McCutchen's bat and improved defense (-3.3 Def) allowed him to stick in center upon Marte's return.

While McCutchen's defensive landing spot is unknown, NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported the team's initial plan earlier this offseason intended for McCutchen to play one of the corner outfield spots. Of the 11,621 career innings in McCutchen's MLB career, he spent only 115 1/3 innings in the corner outfield. That came last season in Pittsburgh earlier in the season. During that time, McCutchen finished with a 1.4 UZR/150 and accounted for two Defensive Runs Saved.

It could be the move San Francisco follows and puts him in front of the arcade in right field, with a speedy defensive center fielder who can cover the deep gaps in left-center and right-center field. While it's not a move that McCutchen will love, or at least didn't last season, it could be much better for San Francisco and help McCutchen stay healthy as he enters a contract year.

The greatest impact McCutchen adds to this team is his bat. No Giants' hitter finished last season with 20-plus home runs or 80-plus RBIs. 

In the span of a few months, San Francisco turned a lineup that put Denard Span and Pablo Sandoval around its best hitters into a core of Buster Posey, Longoria, McCutchen, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.

Set to make $14.5 million in 2018, McCutchen's original six-year deal worth $51.5 million will expire after this season in San Francisco. Given the depth of next year's free agency class, McCutchen and the Giants could explore extension talks at some point this season and potentially try and work out a two- or three-year deal for the veteran outfielder.

From a fantasy perspective, while McCutchen's shift to AT&T Park could result in a dip in his home run output, he should see more RBI and run opportunities surrounded by All Star hitters.

While it's not yet known what San Francisco is sending back to Pittsburgh, multiple reports indicate San Francisco will hang onto their premium prospects. Given the upgrade McCutchen provides for this lineup, San Francisco did well in this deal. The team should have enough money remaining to pursue a defensive center fielder, the last remaining major hole they entered the offseason with.

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