The idea of the New York Yankees re-signing the former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
Andrew McCutchen’s name is one that could easily slip through the cracks in free agency. That is all the more reason for the New York Yankees to re-sign him.
McCutchen, 31, has only hit .220 since being acquired from the San Francisco Giants on August 31, but that number is misleading. The former MVP also has four home runs and seven RBI, not to mention an impressive OBP of .421.
Make no mistake, Yankees fans. In a market that could well see Bryce Harper sign a record-breaking contract, New York would be better off investing short-term in McCutchen, which certainly beats breaking the bank for someone like Harper.
A Pricey Market
I recently wrapped up a franchise with the Yankees on MLB: The Show 18. As I entered the offseason, I opted to let Brett Gardner walk as a free agent and aggressively pursue Harper. The Washington Nationals phenom ultimately signed a 10-year, $248 million deal to put on the pinstripes. Combined with the rest of the offseason work, it wound up hamstringing payroll the following season. The wins were nice, but far from worth it.
Now, I know a virtual baseball experience with my PlayStation 4 does not come anywhere close to how the market will materialize in real life, but it still presents a valid point. Harper is earning $21.6 million this year and though he’s batting just .246, he still has 33 homers with 95 RBI. He’s just a month shy of his 26th birthday and already has 183 career home runs. Come hell or high water, he’s going to get paid.
The rest of the outfield market isn’t as expensive, but still competitive. Michael Brantley and Nick Markakis are in the midst of career seasons. A.J. Pollock has an incredibly high ceiling if he can stay off the disabled list. Marwin Gonzalez’s versatility tremendously ups his value.
And then there’s Andrew McCutchen, the former MVP who’s batting a career-worst .253 this season despite 18 home runs and 61 RBI. His power is still there, but it’s clear the bat speed is dissipating. His defensive numbers aren’t particularly inspiring either, with his career DRS at -65 and UZR at -38.6.
Defensive woes side, McCutchen is a solid fit for the Yankees’ immediate future.
His Place in The Bronx
The Yankees re-signing McCutchen starts with a decision that will sadden a lot of fans. Brett Gardner must be allowed to walk in free agency. Gardner is a solid outfield defender, pesky baserunner and voice of leadership, but he just turned 35 and has lost himself at the plate. He just has to go.
Now, rather than empty the coffers to go after a Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock, general manager Brian Cashman can commit to Andrew McCutchen for, let’s say two years and $30 million. This pays McCutchen what he’s worth, but also keeps his contract movable if things don’t work out.
The Long Game Via Hicks
But wait, there’s more! Signing McCutchen to this type of contract would still leave the Yankees with plenty to spend, only not in free agency. Instead, Cashman can smartly re-invest in players already on the roster that are vital to the team’s future.
No, this money is not going to Judge, Gary Sanchez, or even Gleyber Torres. They both have years of team control plus arbitration left, so they can be extended at a later time. Rather, this money would go towards team-friendly multiyear extensions for two players: Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius.
The case for re-signing Gregorius speaks for itself. I presented it in a piece written last month. Short version, his clubhouse energy, and on-field excellence are things that cannot be replicated.
Hicks, however, needs to be extended for another reason. His switch-hitting and work in center field are just the tip of the iceberg, as I noted here. Remember how I said McCutchen would be getting a two-year contract? With the money saved, Hicks should be getting at least a five-year deal, and with the future playing a big role.
Ace In The Hole
This is where Cashman could really show off the Yankees depth and make their outfield one of the best in the game. Assuming Hicks continues to improve as a hitter up to and following his new contract, he can easily move over to left field once McCutchen’s deal expires. That’s the beauty of Hicks. Though primarily a center fielder, he can actually play all three outfield positions.
Drumroll, please. Here comes Estevan Florial. The 20-year-old is currently ranked the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB. He missed time with a broken hand but has still posted a line of .283/.377/.422, plus six home runs and 35 RBI, and 16 stolen bases, mostly with High-A Tampa. Across two levels of A-ball in 2017, he hit .298 with 13 homers, 57 RBI, and 23 steals.
Florial could start 2019 in Trenton if he has a strong Spring Training, which is where the idea of re-signing McCutchen comes full circle. Florial, at 20 years old, is still a little wet behind the ears. He struck out 148 times in 476 plate appearances last year and has 92 whiffs in 374 at-bats in 2018. Strong OBP numbers aside, the strikeouts are a problem.
The formula explains itself. By letting Gardner walk and re-signing Andrew McCutchen to a reasonable, short-term contract, the Yankees save a ridiculous amount of money by not pursuing Bryce Harper. That cash instead gets re-invested in Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius, keeping two key players while also adding positive clubhouse energy in McCutchen. This sets a path to the majors for prospect Estevan Florial who, depending on how quickly he develops, could leave to McCutchen being traded early thanks to a team-friendly deal. As a result, Hicks moves over to left field while Florial sets up shop in center.
Throw in that McCutchen allows for a right field split between himself, Judge, and Stanton, and re-signing him looks even more sensible.
Don’t let Andrew McCutchen’s seeming decline fool you. Despite slowing down, he can still be a big help in The Bronx.