It’s no secret that Andrew McCutchen is on the trade block as the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to trade their franchise star.
So far the strongest link to the perennial MVP candidate are the Washington Nationals, as the Pirates were said to have been reviewing footage of their prospects at one point. The Rangers were also interested, but have backed off as the Pirates asking price was too high.
The Pirates likely have many suitors for their star outfielder, but have yet to find an offer to their liking, which is reportedly sky high. Now, Jon Heyman reports that a mystery team (because MLB off-season) has joined in the bidding.
There is said to be "mystery team" in McCutchen talks that has not been mentioned publicly yet. Not surprising. Great player— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 5, 2016
The Rays could very well be that mystery team.
Earlier today, Marc Topkin reported that the Pirates were interested in adding Jake Odrozzi so there’s a path to a trade to be made if prospects alone aren’t enough for the Pirates to pull off a deal for a valuable starting pitcher.
But why would the Rays want or need to add Andrew McCutchen?
The Tampa Bay outfield situation is currently Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, and Steven Souza Jr, with Mikie Mahtook filling in as the fourth outfielder. In a world with McCutchen in the fold, more than likely, McCutchen would take one of the corner outfield spots, allowing Souza or Dickerson to take time off the field and fill in at DH, a current need for the Rays.
Although McCutchen’s defensive metrics were awful in 2016, this may have been due to him playing center field every day, or even the way the Pirates had him positioned in the outfield. Then again, it may also have been connected to injuries for the former MVP candidate.
But the Rays are positioned well enough to take a gamble on McCutchen. With Kevin Kiermaier in center field, should McCutchen’s defense decline be a reality, it would be partially shielded by KK’s historically amazing glove.
The main proponent for acquiring McCutchen would be his bat, who still put up 106 wRC+ despite having an off year at the plate, higher than both Souza and Dickerson.
In 2016, McCutchen posted the worst numbers to date, but heading into the year he had averaged .298/.388/.496 over the first seven seasons of his career, but then he slashed .256/.336/.430 with 24 HR. A strong showing overall, but not his former superstar level.
There are other restrictions. McCutchen will earn $14M in 2017 and then $14.75M in 2018, becoming a free agent following that season. His contract is pricey in the eyes of the Rays, whose highest paid player is Evan Longoria, who will earn $13M in 2017. And it’s worth mentioning again, the Pirates are seeking a hefty price, as they reportedly were seeking a top of the line outfield prospect from the Nationals, Victor Robles.
For any deal with McCutchen to make financial sense, the Rays would have to deal one of their starting pitchers, and as mentioned before, the Pirates are interested in Jake Odorizzi, who is projected to make just under $5M through arbitration.
But now is an interesting time to buy low on a possible All-Star outfielder, should the Rays believe in his health and overall ability to rebound in 2017.