When I first heard the news that Andrew McCutchen was traded, I was sad. Cutch is one of my favorite athletes of all time in any sport. He is a class-act. Someone you want to be a representative of your team. Of course, then I was anxious to see what assets the trade netted the Bucs.
Ah, they must be great prospects!
Umm, a reliever and minor league OF. Nobody seems excited. Everyone hates the trade. Umm…
All my normal Pirates news outlets keep repeating the same talking point: “The Pirates’ trades of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen did not include a single Top 100 prospect in return.”
Maybe I need to find sources of information that aren’t pandering to the mob. So I did… and here is what I found.
Crick was previously a Top 100 prospect who is no longer eligible for prospect status due to he’s already a major league ball player. Same goes for Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran that came over in the Gerrit Cole trade. So that whole argument is disingenuous. Crick is a power pitcher with control issues. He can hit 100mph with his fastball. Last year for the Giants he averaged 7.8 K/IP and 4.7 BB/IP. In comparison, Felipe Rivero averaged 9.6 K/IP and 5.9 BB/IP for the Pirates after coming over in a trade. For all the criticism leveled at the Pirates about poor drafts and poor development, they’ve had a lot of success with acquiring pitchers and making them better. Here’s a quick list for example:
- Francisco Liriano, SP
- AJ Burnett, SP
- JA Happ, SP
- Edinson Volquez, SP
- Mark Melancon, RP
- Felipe Rivero, RP
- Jason Grilli, RP
- Justin Wilson, RP
Perhaps the Pirates front office is pretty good at recognizing major league players with upside. It was some of these acquisitions that led them on their playoff run to begin with. People were upset with the trade of Melancon for Rivero at the time claiming it was throwing in the towel on their chances at the “playoffs.” Neal Huntington defended it by saying they didn’t see much drop off from Melancon to Rivero and they liked having Rivero for future seasons. How does that trade look now? Do you think the Nationals would like a redo?
So, the Pirates traded their best hitter for a RP with potential upside. That upside includes the possibility of being a starter. Not likely, but the emphasis on bullpens now RP have far more value. Crick could develop into a dominant reliever. Still, Crick alone isn’t enough.
Reynolds. This OF is 22 years old, a switch hitter with both power and speed. Good defense, though below average arm. He is now the Pirates #4 prospect. Interesting. He could arrive as early as 2019. Well now. This isn’t so bad after all.
At first, I felt McCutchen would bring back more, but teams value top prospects more now than ever. And the Giants only have one year of control for McCutchen. They gave up a lot for one year of control. Could the Pirates have kept him and received more for half a season? I think we’ll likely get that answer as I highly doubt the Giants compete for the playoffs this season no matter how aggressive they are this off-season. So I imagine this summer we’ll see McCuthcen traded again. Then we compare trades. This is assuming McCutchen performs well enough to be a trade target.
So, the return isn’t so bad. But, what about 2018? How can the Pirates hope to compete when they were among the worst HR hitting teams last season and they traded their top HR hitter from last season? If… IF Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco can both stay on the field this season, it will go a long way to making up for some of the offense. The player most likely to get the bulk of playing time with McCutchen gone is Adam Frazier. Last season McCutchen had a WAR of 3.7 (Fangraphs) while Frazier had a 1.1. So, there is some drop-off to be expected. McCutchens WAR in 2016 was only 0.6 so perhaps the Pirates maximized his trade potential. Then again, players older than McCutchen have been MVP’s, so… only time will tell.
Colin Moran at 3B and another year of maturity for Josh Bell should provide some power. David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, and Jose Osuna all on the bench provide some pop. My guess is the 2018 Pirates will hit more HR’s than the 2017 Pirates. But, I think the 2018 Pirates would be better with Andrew McCutchen than they are with Click. Obviously, the 2019 Pirates will be better with Click as there is 0% chance the Pirates would’ve re-signed McCutchen even if McCutchen signed for below market value. I’m holding out hope the Pirates surprise me and sign a free agent OF as there are plenty of intriguing possibilities out there: Carlos Gonzalez, JD Martinez, Austin Jackson, Colby Rasmus, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, and Cameron Maybin. I’m sure half those guys are well out of the Pirates’ price range, but Jackson and Dyson both should be within it.
My hope is they sign one of those two to play CF and keep Marte in LF where his defense is stellar. This would allow Adam Frazier to be the 4th OF which I feel he’s far better suited for. This also allows Jordan Luplow an opportunity for more seasoning in AAA. Having Frazier coming off the bench also allows for a great contact hitter for important PH opportunities and as a pinch runner. Imagine a lineup like this:
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Harrison, 2B
- Marte, LF
- Bell, 1B
- Moran, 3B
- Polanco, RF
- Cervelli0, C
- Mercer, SS
That isn’t too bad. If/when Frazier fills in he enters into the lead-off spot. If he replaces Marte or Polanco, then he slides into the two-hole and Harrison goes to vacated spot. If the Pirates don’t get a free agent, then Frazier becomes the starting LF and is the lead-off hitter. The bench would still seem a bit shy to me, though, in that scenario.
My final analysis: I’m okay with the trade and I would’ve been okay without the trade.