Ranking 29 teams from least likely to most likely to trade for Andrew McCutchen
The 2013 MVP is reportedly being shopped by the Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates of course are reported to be heavily and heatedly shopping center fielder and face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen . Suffice it to say, that would be a bold decision, but, well, let the Pirates' GM himself tell you ...
Neal Huntington today citing Melancon & Walker trades:"We will continue to make challenging and potentially unpopular decisions." Stay tuned— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) November 30, 2016
McCutchen is of course a very recognizable star, and from 2012-15 he finished no worse than fifth in the NL MVP balloting (he won the award in 2013). However, Cutch is now 30 and coming off the worst season of his career. In 153 games for the Pirates in 2016, he batted .256/.336/.430 (103 OPS+) with a career-worst strikeout percentage of 21.2. As well, his defensive metrics in center have been in decline for a while. Some of that may be because of shallow positioning, but it's also entirely possible that McCutchen is soon bound for an outfield corner, which appears to be happening if he stays in Pittsburgh.
As for his contract, McCutchen is owed $14 million for 2017, and his deal includes a $14.75 million option for 2018 that has a $1 million buyout. That figures to be appealing to any team trading for him, as his contract includes reasonable rates for the upcoming season and flexibility for 2018 depending on whether he rebounds.
That said, there's risk involved. Can McCutchen still handle center while hitting like he did in his prime or has premature decline set in across the board?
That, though, is for the team that perhaps swings a deal for McCutchen to figure out. Meantime, we're here to count down the 29 hypothetical trading partners from 29-1 in ascending order of the likelihood that they'll add McCutchen to the fold this offseason. Let's light this candle ...
29. New York Mets
After the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes , there's an outfield glut in Queens. They'll be trading away an outfielder, not trading for one.
28. San Diego Padres
They're committed to seeing what they've got in outfield prospects Travis Jankowski , Manuel Margot , and Hunter Renfroe . As well, the Pads are at least a couple of years away from any shot at contention.
27. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have some impressive outfield prospects on the way to Milwaukee, and it's possible they'll be angling to deal Ryan Braun this winter. As such, there's no fit for a guy like McCutchen.
26. Boston Red Sox
Nah, probably not. The Red Sox on paper may be the best team in the AL headed into 2017. They have potential needs at third and DH and at various spots within the pitching staff, but the outfield may be one of baseball's best. That's because the Red Sox next season will trot out an outfield of Mookie Betts , Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi .
25. Arizona Diamondbacks
They have some stability in the outfield, they're probably non-contenders and they're focused on rebuilding the stable of young pitching under a new front office. That means no veteran outfielder via trade.
24. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are looking to shed payroll, so the only way to see this kind of deal going down is if the addition of McCutchen is some kind of salary offset for the acquiring team. The only way to see that happening is if a high payroll team gets involved in a three-team deal. In other words, no.
23. Colorado Rockies
The Rox have a shot at contention in 2017, but with Charlie Blackmon , Carlos Gonzalez and David Dahl in the fold, they're pretty well set in the outfield.
22. Miami Marlins
With an outfield of Giancarlo Stanton , Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and a focus on improving the rotation, the Marlins aren't a fit for McCutchen.
21. Cincinnati Reds
They've got three young-ish outfielders in the fold, and Jesse Winker should settle in for good pretty soon. They're also not going to contend in 2017, and recent scuttle had it that the Reds may be looking to move Billy Hamilton . In other words, this isn't a team that figures to have any interest in someone else's fading superstar.
20. Chicago White Sox
Since the White Sox are seeking to reset by trading the likes of Chris Sale , Todd Frazier and David Robertson , adding McCutchen doesn't make a great deal of sense.
19. Los Angeles Angels
The Halos obviously need help, but the outfield -- with Mike Trout , Kole Calhoun and Cameron Maybin -- is one of the only strong parts of the roster.
18. Minnesota Twins
There's probably not a fit, as the Twins may be looking to move Brian Dozier off a last-place roster. That said, signing Jason Castro isn't the kind of move a rebuilding team typically makes, so maybe that have unstated designs on relevance in 2017.
17. Chicago Cubs
The reigning World Series champs would seem to be well-stocked in the outfield, especially after the addition of Jon Jay . They're ranked this high only because of the front office's capacity to surprise and their impressive reserves of young talent.
16. Oakland Athletics
Brett Eibner is probably the center fielder in Oakland, and that's not an optimal state of affairs. It's hard to envision the A's making a contender-style move like this, but who can figure out what they're doing. I didn't end that last sentence with a question mark because it wasn't really a question.
15. St. Louis Cardinals
Again, this one depends on a team's viewing McCutchen as a center fielder in here and now. The Cards have a hole in the outfield, and they're certainly aiming to get back to the playoffs in 2017. Drop them a bit because of the Pirates' possible reluctance to trade their shining star to a division rival.
14. Tampa Bay Rays
Probably not, but the Rays have surplus starting pitching that the Pirates might covet. It doesn't seem like McCutchen would be targeted by a team that in 2016 lost 94 games, but the Rays have significant rebound potential in the upcoming season. Hence, their possible interest.
13. New York Yankees
Why not? The Yankees, thanks in part to Brian Cashman's highly successful deadline sell-off, are well positioned for the future, but they're also looking to contend in 2017. Such a move would probably require the Yankees to move a Brett Gardner or a Jacoby Ellsbury , and if they did they might be open to adding a player like McCutchen on an expiring contract.
12. Kansas City Royals
Maybe there's a fit, as KC gears up for one last run before they very likely get hit hard by free agency next offseason. They'd either need to deploy McCutchen in center or shift Lorenzo Cain back there.
11. Atlanta Braves
On the one hand, the Braves have their outfield set. On the other hand, they're angling toward relevance and a re-engaged fan base as they move into a new ballpark for 2017. McCutchen would certainly move the needle. Such a deal would very likely lead to the dumping of Nick Markakis or Matt Kemp on the market.
10. Seattle Mariners
The M's have been mentioned in connection with McCutchen in the past, but that's been dismissed of late. Still, the recent addition of Jean Segura suggests they're all-in for 2017, and they could certainly use an upgrade in left field.
9. Cleveland Indians
The AL champs will presumably be getting Michael Brantley back in 2017, and Lonnie Chisenhall will likely pin down the other corner. The Tribe's suitability likely depends on their capacity to see McCutchen as a center fielder moving forward. If they do, then he's a fit in Cleveland.
8. Houston Astros
At first blush, there's doesn't appear to be a match, but there's been some speculation that the Astros will move a certain impact outfielder for help at the front of the rotation. The addition of McCutchen would certainly enable such a move. Plus they were reportedly in play for Yoenis Cespedes before he re-upped with the Mets.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
L.A. is stable in center with Joc Pederson , but the corner spots aren't exactly known quantities ( Andrew Toles , Yasiel Puig , Andre Ethier and Trayce Thompson are all in the mix). If the Dodgers move one or more of those outfielders, then McCutchen could be a good fit. Perhaps the young Pederson would move to a corner if McCutchen insists on remaining in center?
6. Philadelphia Phillies
It's perhaps premature to call the Phillies contenders in 2017, but they are emerging from the deep rebuilding process. McCutchen would be a fit at either outfield corner in Philly.
5. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have been strongly linked to McCutchen recently. Their fitness for such a trade largely hinges on whether they're confident giving all those young bats prominent roles on a contender. If they're not, then an opening for a player like McCutchen is there.
4. San Francisco Giants
There's no doubt that the Giants are aiming to return to the playoffs in 2017, and there's also no doubt that they need help in the outfield. The problem is that the Giants don't have much in the way of trade-able long-term assets. Their best hope is that the market fades McCutchen because of his age and 2016 struggles, thus making in possible for the Giants to swoop in with a package of mid-tier prospects.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Mark Trumbo and Steve Pearce are likely gone via free agency, and that leaves an outfield void in Baltimore ( Joey Rickard is probably atop the depth chart in right field at the moment). McCutchen would be a great fit on a veteran team in win mode.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are faced with losing two outfielders ( Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista ) on the free agent market, so they obviously have a need. Kevin Pillar isn't moving off of center, so this would require McCutchen to be open to corner outfield detail.
1. Washington Nationals
The Nats discussed a deal for McCutchen leading up to last season's non-waiver trade deadline, so it follows that they top the list. They have the young talent to trade, but it's matter of meeting the Pirates' asking cost.