Entering the year, the Giants had hopes of contention, with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen joining a core of position players that included Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Buster Posey plus Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto to lead the rotation .
Roughly four-fifths of the way through the year, however, the Giants have no hopes of contention. With a record under .500 and a competitive National League landscape, it is pretty clear that this will not be their season. Further dooming their 2018 campaign is the news that Posey will be out the remainder of the season with hip surgery. The Giants are passing players through waivers to prepare for any trades that might benefit the club. The most likely candidate at this point appears to be Andrew McCutchen.
The Giants’ troubles aren’t McCutchen’s fault. The former Pirates star has put up a 112 wRC+ and 1.4 WAR on the season. That’s less impressive than nearly all his seasons in Pittsburgh but still a rough approximation of the 119 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR for which he was projected before the start of the year. That makes McCutchen a productive player, one who would serve as an upgrade on a team with a hole, if not over a decent everyday player. Along with McCutchen comes his remaining salary which is somewhere, in the neighborhood of $3 million. The combination of McCutchen’s play and his salary scared teams off during the waiver process as he reportedly went unclaimed.
Unclaimed doesn’t necessarily mean unwanted: there are teams that could use McCutchen that might not love the idea of taking on his salary, as well. San Francisco can now negotiate with any team and can, if they choose, pay down some of McCutchen’s salary in an effort to make a deal more attractive. At the trade deadline, Jay Jaffe surveyed the positional replacement-level killers and found several teams — including the Astros, Diamondbacks, Phillies, and Rockies — lacking in the corner-outfield spots. For the most part, those teams have opted not to fill those holes.
Taking a look at the potential landing spots from another angle, let’s look at each contenders’ projections at both corner-outfield spots.
All those spots to the left of the McCutchen line aren’t likely fits for the Giants right fielder as they already project to be as good or better at the position. Of the first four clubs to the right of the McCutchen line, none seem like real fits, at least at those positions. Stephen Piscotty‘s performance has been pretty close to McCutchen’s. Steven Souza’s produced similarly for Arizona since his return from the disabled list in early July. Nick Markakis has outhit McCutchen this year for the Braves, so there’s not really a fit there, either.
The Cardinals present an interesting opportunity for McCutchen. The club was teeming with outfielders a month ago, when they opted to trade Tommy Pham to the Rays. Since then, however, Dexter Fowler hit the disabled list and been placed on the 60-day DL through the end of the season. Marcell Ozuna has joined Fowler on the disabled list, leaving a starting outfield of rookies Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader along with Jose Martinez and infielder Yairo Munoz as the fourth outfielder. If Ozuna returns soo, the Cardinals are probably fine. If Ozuna lingers the disabled list, however, adding some stability in McCutchen makes a lot of sense for the streaking Cardinals.
The Astros also present an interesting possibility. The team has Marwin Gonzalez and Tony Kemp taking most of the starts in left field. Prospect Kyle Tucker didn’t do much in his first trip to the big leagues, but in just 59 plate appearances, his strikeout and walk rates were fine, so there’s reason to think his numbers would’ve come around. If the team isn’t ready to give the spot to Tucker, adding McCutchen to defend their title would be a decent fit.
The Mariners would seem to be a fit, but the combination of Denard Span and Ben Gamel has actually played well for the club in left field. The team has put both Gamel and Span in the lineup of late, with Mitch Haniger taking reps in center field as Cameron Maybin struggles. If the team wanted to consolidate Span and Gamel, McCutchen would probably help the team. In Oakland, Chad Pinder and Nick Martini have manned left field and hit pretty well for the A’s, but if the team wanted someone with a longer track record and better projections, a move across the bay would help the A’s as they try to make the playoffs.
The Rockies just brought up Matt Holliday and they have David Dahl available. Plus they still seem to like Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra. In short, we don’t really know what the Rockies are doing. McCutchen would probably help, but the Rockies might be paralyzed by so many mediocre options. In Philadelphia, Nick Williams has terrible projections, but he’s got a 113 wRC+ on the season, including a 123 wRC+ since the middle of May after regaining an everyday role he lost with a poor April.
That brings us to Cleveland, where Melky Cabrera and Brandon Guyer have been playing out in right field. McCutchen would be an improvement over that duo going forward, though both players have done well in their time since the All-Star break. Where McCutchen might be a bigger improvement is at his former position of center field. The team traded for Leonys Martin at the deadline to hold down that spot, but he is unfortunately out for the season with a bacterial infection. The team has turned to Greg Allen, who has a career 65 wRC+ in 248 plate appearances and projections that say he isn’t too much better. McCutchen is likely a poor defender in center field, but the runs he gives back on defense are still likely to be less than the sacrifice of Allen on offense. Cleveland doesn’t need McCutchen, as they are headed to the playoffs, but if they can get him for very little cost, he might help fill a void in the outfield.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Yankees, who don’t really need McCutchen given everything they’ve got in the outfield — even if Aaron Judge doesn’t come back — but if the team is looking for an extra bat, McCutchen is available to them. There are reasons McCutchen slipped through the waiver wire, and demand isn’t likely to heat up now that he’s passed through waivers. A number of teams could use his help, though, and it would be great to see the former Pirates star get another shot at the postseason while he’s still a solid player.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.