The rebuild is officially on in Pittsburgh.
On Monday, two days after sending Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded franchise player Andrew McCutchen and cash to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick, outfielder Bryan Reynolds, and international bonus pool money. The Pirates confirmed the trade on Twitter:
McCutchen is, of course, not the first former MVP to make the move from Pittsburgh to San Francisco. Barry Bonds left the Pirates to join the Giants as a free agent way back in 1993.
Earlier this offseason the Giants were in on Giancarlo Stanton -- they agreed to a trade with the Miami Marlins only to have Stanton veto it with his no-trade clause -- so it was no secret they wanted to upgrade their outfield. In fact, prior to the McCutchen deal, FanGraphs projected San Francisco to have the worst outfield in baseball.
It is entirely possible the Giants are not done adding outfielders. The club reportedly planned to play McCutchen in a corner, meaning the center field position remains wide open.
Don't know if it'll change once he gets here or offseason ends, but Giants plan had been to play McCutchen in a corner outfield spot. Still want defense in center field.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) January 15, 2018
. He had been on the trade block since last offseason, .
In addition to McCutchen, the Giants have also added Evan Longoria this offseason, so they've acquired two players who were the faces of their old franchise. McCutchen in the outfield and Longoria at third improves two major weaknesses. Giants skipper Bruce Bochy could trot out a lineup that looks something like this now:
- 2B Joe Panik
- CF Andrew McCutchen
- C Buster Posey
- 3B Evan Longoria
- 1B Brandon Belt
- RF Hunter Pence
- SS Brandon Crawford
- LF TBD
McCutchen, 31, will make $14.5 million in 2018 before qualifying for free agency next offseason. He bounced back from a tough 2016 season to hit .279/.363/.486 with 28 home runs in 2017. The Giants have a lot of money on the books in future years, but with a productive season, they could look to re-sign McCutchen long-term next winter.
It's worth noting that SportsLine's projections have the Giants improving by just one win, per Stephen Oh. The Giants raised their playoff percentage to 16.1 percent, giving them the eighth-best odds in the National League.
As for the Pirates, trading Cole and McCutchen all but confirms the team is going into a rebuild. They finished below .500 the last two seasons and are stuck in the same division with the powerhouse Chicago Cubs, the consistently good St. Louis Cardinals, and the upstart Milwaukee Brewers. Short-term contention would be tough.
With the rebuild now apparently underway, the Pirates figure to entertain trade offers for other players like infielders David Freese and Josh Harrison, and lefty relief ace Felipe Rivero. Harrison in particular has popped up in a lot of trade rumors this winter.
Crick, 25, is coming off a rookie season in which he posted a 3.06 ERA and 1.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings out of the bullpen. Formerly a top prospect, he has never been able to demonstrate the command or control necessary to tape into his upside. The Pirates will hope the change of scenery helps. Reynolds is 22 and spent last year in Advanced Class A. MLB.com ranked him the fourth-best prospect in San Francisco's system, citing his four average or better tools and chance to stick in center.