The move to obtain former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen is all about the New York Yankees needing something during October.
It’s been five weeks since Aaron Judge, the face of the franchise, suffered a right wrist fracture. Five weeks and the pain is still preventing the New York Yankees All-Star right-fielder from even swinging a bat.
As MLB rounds the bend into the September stretch, reality got the better of Brian Cashman when he pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, 31, from the San Francisco Giants for minor leaguers Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. The Yankees will also receive cash from the Giants.
This is what many might refer to as a “no-brainer.”
Despite folks like Cashman and Aaron Boone still insisting to the media that they are optimistic that Aaron Judge will return, let’s face it, at this point what can we expect from the big man should he indeed come back sometime in September? Let’s also face the fact that the Yankees would not rush Judge back under any circumstances and risk doing long-term or even permanent damage to his wrist.
Enter Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen’s production has dropped off from his big years with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2011-2015 when he won the 2013 NL MVP award. Nevertheless, he showcased a solid 2017 hitting .279 with 28 HRs, 88 RBIs, and a .849 OPS. So far in 2018, “Cutch” is hitting .255 with 15 HRs and 55 RBI. Not eye-popping, but a serious upgrade from what the Yankees have been getting from right field since Judge went down.
The move also allows Aaron Boone to rest Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton down the stretch. Gardner has been struggling and his 35-year-old body has logged a lot of hard miles over the years. Giancarlo, who has played in 134 of the team’s 135 games, has had some hamstring issues and could also use some days off.
McCutchen also adds a solid glove and veteran leadership to the Yankees. He has a reputation as a good guy and brings some swagger. Neil Walker, who spent seven seasons as McCutchen’s teammate in Pittsburgh told the New York Post’s Greg Joyce, “(McCutchen) thrives in big situations.”
The Yankees would certainly like to see Cutch step up his game like 2017 waiver deadline pick up Justin Verlander did for the Houston Astros. Verlander had a mind-blowing September and October, leading the ‘Stros to a World Series championship.
Along with catcher Gary Sanchez’s return this weekend and hopefully shortstop Didi Gregorius sometime next week, McCutchen enters the AL race just in time for matchups in Seattle and Oakland who are battling along with the Yankees for a wild card spot. And with other contenders like Cleveland adding Josh Donaldson, the Yankee offense needed to fill the enormous void left by the sidelined Judge—at least partially.
As for prospects Avelino and De Paula, MLB.com had Avelino and De Paula ranked 23rd and 26th, respectively. Avelino is a middle infielder and De Paula a pitcher. Both were considered expendable by the Yankees. And along with the Giants reportedly picking up half of what McCutchen is owed in 2018, this was the best deal the Yankees could make.
Nobody expects McCutchen to be Aaron Judge but the Yankees hope being thrust into a playoff race and surrounded by a better lineup in a more hitter-friendly park will get him back to being a top outfielder.