Ryan Boyer

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: McCutchen on the Move

Monday, January 15, 2018


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It’s been a rough few days in the Steel City.

 

Two days after the Pirates traded Gerrit Cole and a day after the Steelers were upset by the Jaguars in the NFL Playoffs, the Pirates made another big deal Monday when they agreed to ship franchise icon Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for reliever Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.

 

We’ve seen McCutchen’s name pop up in trade rumors for a while now, and the Pirates finally pulled the trigger on a deal when the former MVP had just one year remaining on his contract. Pittsburgh will pick up $2.5 million of the $14.75 million Cutch is owed in 2018.

 

The return for McCutchen seems a little light on the surface, but it’s pretty clear at this point that he wasn’t in high demand with plenty of bats still available.

 

Crick is a former compensation round pick who made a full-time move to the bullpen in 2017 because he simply didn’t throw enough strikes as a starter. His control was slightly improved last year but was still bad (10.5 percent walk rate at Triple-A, 12.7 percent walk rate in the majors). However, Crick is just 25, does throw hard and could potentially be a late-inning reliever if he can find the strike zone more. Reynolds was ranked by MLB.com as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect after hitting .312/.364/.462 with 10 homers in High-A last season, although he was old for the California League given that he’ll turn 23 later this month. Neither player will have fantasy relevancy in 2018.

 

As far as McCutchen goes, obviously it’s not an ideal landing spot for fantasy purposes with him going to the most pitcher-friendly home setting in the majors. He’ll especially lose a lot of opposite-field home runs at AT&T Park, and as you can see in the spray chart below covering the outfielder’s last three seasons, Cutch hit a decent number of dingers to right and right-center.

 


Source: FanGraphs

 

McCutchen is 31 now and has regressed at the plate over the last two seasons, posting a .807 OPS following a .926 OPS from 2012-15. His batted ball data has also been on the downswing the last couple years.

 

That said, McCutchen was much better in 2017 than he was in 2016, putting together a .279/.363/.486 batting line with 28 home runs, 88 RBI and 94 runs scored. His .849 OPS ranked 14th among 51 qualifying outfielders. The 11 stolen bases were nice to see, too, after he fell off to just six in 2016. It’s clear that Cutch doesn’t run as well as he used to, but his fantasy owners would take double-digit thefts again in 2018 and he seems capable of providing that.

 

We also must talk about McCutchen’s durability. The veteran outfielder has averaged 155 games played over his last eight seasons and has never dropped below 146 during that span. He’s made only one trip to the disabled list in his career, and that happened in 2014 when he fractured a rib. He missed just two weeks.

 

It’s fair to expect McCutchen’s numbers to drop off some in 2018 from the previous season given his new home digs. However, we have every reason to believe he will still be a nice five-category fantasy outfielder, possibly pushing to be among the top-20 at his position. He’s entering his walk year and will be playing for what could be his final multi-year contract.

 

With Cutch no longer around, the Pirates will shift Starling Marte to center field, creating a hole in left. Top prospect Austin Meadows should eventually fill that hole, but he’ll begin 2018 back at Triple-A Indianapolis after two straight injury-shortened, disappointing seasons. For now Pittsburgh figures to go with a combination of Adam Frazier, Jordan Luplow, Sean Rodriguez and possibly Jose Osuna in left, although Frazier could take over at second base if (when) the Pirates deal Josh Harrison. Luplow is the most intriguing of that group after hitting .302/.381/.527 with 23 homers between Double- and Triple-A last season in addition to slugging three more bombs in his brief time with the big club. He might ultimately be more of a fourth outfielder but is certainly worthy of deep-league consideration.



Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.
Email :Ryan Boyer



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