The Giants have frequently been linked to Marlins outfielder and prime trade candidate Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, and numerous insiders have suggested they’re the favorite to acquire the 2017 NL MVP. In the event that they ultimately don’t acquire Stanton, however, they’ve had ongoing discussions with the Pirates about the possibility of acquiring outfielder Andrew McCutchen, as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported Wednesday.
McCutchen, 31, is heading into the final season of his contract and could be a good fit for a Giants club that is likely to embrace a youth movement next offseason if they don’t return to serious contention in 2018. Though the five-time All-Star and 2013 NL MVP looked to be in decline in 2016, posting a career-worst .256/.336/.430 slash line with 24 homers and a career-low six steals, he recovered nicely this past season, hitting .279/.363/.486 with 28 home runs and 11 stolen bases.
McCutchen has frequently been talked about as a trade candidate in recent years as the Pirates have dropped back to the middle of the pack in the NL Central, but Pittsburgh has held onto him to this point, choosing to embrace his status as a franchise icon who has a chance to spend his entire career in a Pirates uniform. But if the Pittsburgh front office is planning on letting him walk after 2018 anyway—which seems to be less of a possibility than it was a year ago now that prospect Austin Meadows has muddied his status as McCutchen’s eventual successor—then it might make sense to get whatever they can for him right now and fully embrace a rebuild.
In a controversial move, the Pirates moved McCutchen to right field last winter as they sought to open up center field for Starling Marte. But after Marte was suspended for a violation of baseball’s PED policy on April 18, McCutchen moved back to his natural position of center field and remained there through the end of the season.
While McCutchen’s defensive metrics bounced back a bit in 2017—he finished with -16 defensive runs saved after finishing with -28 in 2016—it’s still difficult to envision the Giants allowing him to patrol AT&T Park’s spacious center field if they have any real intention of improving defensively after a horrid 2017 season. If they were to acquire McCutchen, they could position him in a corner spot and sign a cheaper free agent such as Jarrod Dyson or Austin Jackson to play center, or they could turn to an in-house option like Steven Duggar or Austin Slater.
With the Giants’ chief priority this offseason seeming to be their ability to upgrade the corner outfield spots—both by plugging the hole in left field that remained a problem throughout 2017, and by limiting Hunter Pence’s playing time moving forward—McCutchen could be a logical fit in San Francisco even if he doesn’t play center field.