While the initial talks between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners about a trade involving Andrew McCutchen didn’t get very far, the option of a deal going through eventually exists.
The Mariners are one of a few teams to call up the Pirates and enquire about the situation regarding McCutchen, a five-time All-Star and one-time MVP, who just had the worst season of his pro career. It seems there’s plenty of interest in him and no real rush from the Pirates to move him, with two more seasons (one a $14.75 million team option) controlling his deal. Both sides seem to think that 2016 was a one-time thing, and not the beginning of the end for McCutchen.
The star centerfielder, who was coming off four consecutive years of winning the Silver Slugger award heading into 2016, batted just .256 with a .766 OPS and an OPS+ of 103, playing in 153 games. In the previous four seasons, McCutchen batted .313 with a .926 OPS and 157 OPS+, averaging 25 home runs a season. He did hit 24 home runs in 2016, so it wasn’t like all of his power disappeared. Not outstanding overall, but perhaps nothing to really worry about. McCutchen wasn’t the only key player on the Pirates to underperform.
As far as the Mariners go, they’d probably use McCutchen at one of the corner slots in the outfield, with McCutchen declining defensively over the last three years, which means there’s no sense of putting him at center instead of Leonys Martin. The Mariners could use some more balance in their lineup when it comes to adding righty hitters, which makes the 30 year-old McCutchen, a major leaguer since 2009 (all in Pittsburgh), a smart addition, considering it won’t cost them too much to land him.
If the Pirates do deal McCutchen, it might signal the end of their playoff aspirations for the time being, and open up room for top prospect Austin Meadows, waiting patiently for his big break. The 21-year old lefty needs some time in Triple-A before making his move to the majors, but he’ll probably get his chances in 2017 to see how major league life suits him.