As many Pittsburgh Pirates fans know, Andrew McCutchen was a phone call away from being traded last off-season. Once again, his name is expected to be on the rumor mill this off-season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a team caught in the middle. Their roster is made up of a bunch of players who are supposed to have a ton of potential. However, many of the players often get injured, or simply do not seem likely to reach that potential. With that, there is expected to be somewhat of a rebuild that needs to occur. The Bucs will not completely restart, as they have many young players under team-friendly control. But, they will look to trade more expensive players who will be entering the market soon. The player who leads that list is Andrew McCutchen.
Many fans can remember how likely it seemed that Andrew McCutchen would not be on the Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 roster. During last off-season’s winter meetings, reports were flying that the Nationals and Pirates were in deep talks about the Pirates franchise player. However, the Pirates were demanding that Nationals’ top prospect Victor Robles as be part of the deal. Neither side would budge on that sticking point and a deal never came about. Months later, reports came out the Pirates actually thought they had a deal done with the Nationals, but at the last moment the Nats pulled out.
Well, it seems destined that even more deals will likely be talked about this off-season. Last off-season the ball was 100 percent in Neal Huntington’s court. McCutchen had two more years of cheap control at that point. He was coming off a poor season, so it’s not like he was looking to sell at his highest point. Huntington had the option to give Cutch another year to try to rebound, in which he did. So now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a similar spot, except Cutch seems more likely to be dealt. He is coming off a strong year, and the Bucs only have team control through this season. If they wait to trade him during the 2018 season his value will decline due to team control. Also, it is possible that Cutch starts off slow and hurts his stock. So, it seems likely that the best return will come now if their plan is to trade him.
MLB.com believes the same. Today, Mark Feinsand of mlb.com wrote an article ranking the top 10 2018-2019 free agents who are most likely to be traded. Cutch is ranked as the fourth most likely on the list. He has Ian Kinsler, Kelvin Herrera, and Zach Britton ahead of Cutch. All three of those seem more likely for multiple reasons. First, the free agent relief market is very weak and teams are always looking to bolster their pens. Second, second base is a position that that lacks a lot of proven talent in the league.
Also, hurting a potential Cutch trade is how there are plenty of other outfield options. On the free agent market, there is JD Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, and Jay Bruce who can be had for just contracts, not top prospects. Also, on the trade market you have the Giancarlo Stanton frenzy that needs to play out. Still, teams may prefer a shorter, cheaper team commitment in Cutch.