Breaking Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Rumors: Andrew McCutchen

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The offseason is under way, and there has been a huge development in terms of rumors surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded away Mark Melancon on July 30 to the Washington Nationals. The Pirates received reliever Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn. However, that is not the only move the two clubs were discussing.  Andrew McCutchen was reportedly discussed too!

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports dropped a huge bomb on rumors surrounding star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen:

"Closer Mark Melancon was not the only star player the Pirates and Nationals discussed at the non-waiver deadline.The teams also talked about a separate blockbuster involving Pirates center-fielder Andrew McCutchen, according to major-league sources.The Nationals ultimately acquired Melancon for left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and left-handed prospect Taylor Hearn, but the McCutchen talks collapsed due to the large number of moving parts, sources said.The talks, while unlikely to revive because of differences in McCutchen’s perceived value, amount to the strongest indication yet that the Pirates are willing to move their five-time All-Star and franchise player."

This news is huge, especially when considering that Andrew McCutchen is the star player for the team.  Rosenthal reported that Victor Robles was the centerpiece, but the trade broke down to other moving parts, as the Pirates wanted more than just a 19-year-old outfielder.

Robles is currently the Nationals number two prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and the number 10 overall prospect.

Andrew McCutchen was hitting just .241/.311/.408 with a .308 wOBA and a 92 wRC+, meaning he was eight percent below league average.  However, McCutchen ended the season hitting .256/.336/.430 with a .329 wOBA and a 106 wRC+, meaning he was six percent better than league average.  It was his worst overall season of his career, but for 2017 he is still projected to hit .282/.378/.469 with a .362 wOBA and a 129 wRC+, so he still has positive value.

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His defensive metrics ranked dead last in baseball, with -28 defensive runs saved.  However, I wouldn’t rank him as the worst defensive player.  Per outfielders with a minimum of 800 innings, Tyler Naquin ranked last in defensive runs saved per inning and JD Martinez ranked last in defensive runs saved per play.  McCutchen was bottom five for sure last season, but to say he was the worst I think is a little overblown.

The rumor mill does not end there though with McCutchen.  Buster Olney sent out a tweet saying “Among changes the Pirates are considering: Polanco in left field, Marte in CF, McCutchen in RF.”

I am a huge fan of this. I’ve written before how the Pirates shouldn’t put McCutchen in left field. Many there have been talks among fans that Marte and McCutchen should flip flop, saying:

"Andrew McCutchen does not have the arm nor the range of Starling Marte, so the plays taken for granted in left because of Marte would be no more. Marte excels, being able to use his speed and arm strength to hold runners to singles, and catch would be doubles with ease. Andrew McCutchen relies more on positioning as his defense has continued to decline."

The dimensions of PNC Park make it more favorable to the Pirates leaving Marte in left over McCutchen.  Also, given the dimensions of PNC Park, the best arm does not need to be in right field to stop the first to third throw. The spacious left and center should be more of a focus for the better outfield arms. Putting McCutchen in right field, moving Polanco to left, with Marte in center, seems to be a wise decision. Me personally though, I would just flip McCutchen and Polanco.

Next: Andrew McCutchen: Cleveland Indians?

The news of McCutchen being talked about at the deadline with the Washington Nationals comes at a surprise.  The news of putting Cutch in right, and thankfully not left, comes as less of a surprise. This is more of good news.

*Numbers from fangraphs