Hey Giants, Andrew McCutchen may be available

Photo credit: Mangin Photography

It’s a good thing I’m writing this about Andrew McCutchen, since the Giants would surely have no idea otherwise. Who reads Jon Morosi, anyway?

OK, so the Giants are probably well aware that McCutchen is a player they could (and should … duh) target. He’s only making $14 million in 2017, with a $14.5 million team option ($1 million buyout) for 2018. He was a top-five MVP finalist for four straight years (2012-15), winning the award in 2013 when he finished with over eight wins above replacement (according to Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs).

He’s also coming off his worst season, one in which his defense declined and he was benched for the Pirates’ first three games in August. He still finished with 24 home runs — seven more than Brandon Belt — but he probably isn’t a great defensive center fielder anymore and he struck out more (but not that much more) than ever before.

It’s hard to believe the Giants (or several other teams, including ones like the Mariners and Nationals who reportedly tried to pry McCutchen away from Pittsburgh) could buy low on McCutchen. And it they probably can’t, if we’re being realistic — it would probably take more than the Giants were comfortable parting with in a trade, even if they’re guaranteed that McCutchen won’t regress after turning 30 last month.

But the Giants are certainly interested in dealing for moderately-priced outfielders who can hit, as we all saw when they reportedly discussed a deal with the Tigers for J.D. Martinez. Martinez is a year younger than McCutchen and a year removed from a 38-homer season. Like McCutchen, Martinez had a down year defensively in 2016, except Martinez’s poor defensive metrics came as a right fielder instead of a center fielder. It’s not controversial to suggest that McCutchen is a superior defensive player. And given McCutchen’s MVP credentials, acquiring Martinez would be far less painful in terms of prospects surrendered.

Given the Giants’ relative lack of worry about center field defense — which seems really weird to type since the franchise’s best player was Willie Mays — they’d probably be more than fine with McCutchen playing center whenever Denard Span needed a breather. Or even replacing Span with McCutchen in center if Span got hurt during Spring Training or something.

What are the other options for a team that probably shouldn’t roll into 2017 with the Mac Williamson/Jarrett Parker combo as their left field Plan A?

  • They could trade for Ryan Braun, who has $80 million in guaranteed money coming to him and was in the news several times for PED allegations (and a 65-game suspension) a few years ago.
  • They could sign a third baseman and move Eduardo Nuñez to left field.
  • Like Martin Prado, the leading vote-getter among Marty Lurie callers suggesting midseason trade targets for the Giants (for at least three years running).
  • Or Justin Turner.
  • Or they could bore everyone and sign Luis Valbuena or Trevor Plouffe.
  • They could sign Dexter Fowler, who I thought they should’ve targeted a year ago.
  • They could go crazy and sign Jose Bautista, someone they’d probably need to overpay to convince him to come to a HR-suppressing park like AT&T.

Turner, Fowler and Bautista got qualifying offers. So did Kenley Jansen, which is why I think the Giants’ desired offseason closers are probably ranked like this:

  1. Mark Melancon
  2. Brad Ziegler
  3. Greg Holland (Holland and Ziegler could probably switch places)

I don’t think they’d want to deal with spending over $50 million on Aroldis Chapman considering a sizable portion of the fanbase would loudly protest. (Besides, who wants to spend a ton of money and spend the first press conference answering newspaper columnists’ questions about domestic violence?) Jansen is going to cost more than Melancon, who isn’t as intimidating in terms of stuff but might be a better option in terms of production per dollars spent.

Looks like I got distracted with the whole closer thing, which makes sense since the Giants came out and said it was their top priority of the offseason.

Let’s not ignore these McCutchen rumors, though. He was the most exciting player I saw in person during the 2013 season, and he would immediately make the Giants a lot more exciting in 2017 even if he regresses a little (and from August until the end of the season he was pretty good: .284/.381/.471). Plus, the Giants seem to have pretty good luck when they make deals with Pittsburgh. Does that mean the Giants should trade Tyler Beede, Ty Blach, Panik and Arroyo for McCutchen? No, but the Giants should at least call the Pirates and see what they’d be asking.*

*There’s about a 99.8% chance they’ve already called the Pirates about McCutchen.

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