The New York Yankees must bypass, at all costs, any and all bait that involves selling their farm for proven yet deteriorating superstars.
Sure, the 29-year old has a career .869 OPS, five All-Star appearances, four silver slugger awards, and a gold glove award but he did not perform at that dominant level in 2016.
In 153 games, McCutchen slashed .256/.336/.430 with an OPS of .766 (all career-lows) and set a career high in strikeouts. He did, however, keep up the power numbers with 24 home runs and 26 doubles.
As mentioned, there are rumors that feature the Pirates trying to ship the face of their franchise, especially with hot centerfield prospect Austin Meadows‘ stellar year (48 XBH in 87 games between three levels in 2016).
Despite the slow year, however, don’t think for a second that Pittsburgh’s price will be put on clearance, even if the probability of bringing him back at the end of 2017 are slender.
With that said, just think of how astronomical the package to acquire a former MVP would be.
It’s almost guaranteed, with a superstar like McCutchen, that a top tier pitching and position prospect would have to be shipped to Pittsburgh.
To go off that last point, according to Joe Pantorno of Bleacher Report, it would take two “good” prospects to make this deal happen and New York has plenty of those.
The Yankees have highly touted guys like Justus Sheffield, Domingo Acevedo, and James Kaprielian — just to name a few. According to MLB Pipeline, these three are the top three pitching prospects and all are forecasted to maintain spots towards the top of the pitching staff in the future.
Then, considering the fact that the Pirates have just one outfield prospect (Meadows) in their team’s top-10 ranking, they’ll probably require the services of Clint Frazier, New York’s top prospect.
Now, on one hand, you can think this deal could be too good to be true. Yes, the asking price of a Sheffield/Kapriellian with Frazier is an abrupt one but you are getting a proven star for no long-term commitment — besides a team option for 2018.
If Cashman gets his way and receives the All-Star version of McCutchen, this deal is a steal. But what if it goes incredibly south?
Still, to this day, the Yankees are feeling the pain left by going all in on what a star “used” to be.
Example number one: Jacoby Ellsbury. Finished second in the American League MVP voting in 2011 and owned a career .297/.350/.439 slash line with 241 stolen bases before coming to New York in 2014 on a seven year, $153-million contract.
The Yankees’ plan was to recapture the magic Ellsbury had back in 2011 when he joined the 30/30/30 club. Unfortunately, his batting average in the Bronx is 33 points lower than it was in Boston while his OPS also declined by 81 points.
Example number two: Chase Headley.
Cashman traded for the third baseman in 2014 hoping that he could transfer his 31 homers and 115 RBI from back in 2012 to the AL. He even dismissed the fact that was batting a mere .221 with a 26% strikeout rate before trading for him.
Then, after Headley batting a respectful .262 in the second half in the Bronx, he was inked to a four-year, $53-million contract.
Through the first two years of that deal, he has yet to match his home run or RBI total from 2012, where he put up numbers the Yankees were hoping he could put up in Pinstripes.
The moral of the story is, this organization has a history of taking risks on former stars by dismissing their contemporary struggles for that slim chance they could be that player again only to later discover that they certainly aren’t.
Now, although a long-term dilemma of an ugly contract isn’t in play, a gamble and failure on McCutchen be much worse.
If McCutchen doesn’t become his All-Star self, the Yankees would have wasted a year on a past-his-prime player at the cost of two highly touted prospects that are expected to land in the Bronx by 2018.
It’s a battle between the Angel (future) vs Devil (present). Any fan would love to see their Bombers win now, but the franchise is on an incredibly upward trend thanks to their reinforced farm system and a move like this won’t make the 2017 team a winning one.
It could sell some jerseys and some seats, but the Yankees are more than one right-handed hitter away from being championship-caliber. A lot still needs to go their way, and more.
This is still a rebuilding team and there’s absolutely no need to gamble it all away and potentially destroy the halfway completed infrastructure. Patience is a virtue.
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.