Analyzing the Andrew McCutchen Trade
As numerous outlets have reported, the Yankees have officially traded Abital Avelino and Juan DePaula while likely keeping themselves beneath the $197 million luxury tax threshold. This trade has numerous implications for the Yankees. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the trade:
Andrew McCutchen’s 2018 season splits courtesy of baseball-reference.com
After dealing away much of their outfield depth in July and with Greg Bird’s severe struggles, the Yankees had no choice but to trade for either a first baseman or an outfielder prior to the waiver trade deadline, but I did not expect the Yankees to pull off a trade of this magnitude. While Andrew McCutchen is not the MVP-caliber Center fielder who starred for Pittsburgh anymore, he is still a starting caliber outfielder who has been solid for San Francisco this year. While his overall offensive stat line is above average (totaling 115 OPS+ per Baseball Reference) for the season, he appears to be heating up. Per Baseball Reference, McCutchen has hit .259/.400/.457 in the last 28 days, better than his stat line for the year as a whole, but also 36 points better than the league offensively during the same period per OPS+. Quite simply, McCutchen is heating up at the right time, and could prove to be more valuable in September than he has been in any previous month this year.
McCutchen also adds a much needed skill-set to the Yankee lineup right now: patience and plate discipline. During the same 28 day period, McCutchen has walked almost as many times as he has struck out, walking in 19% of his plate appearances while striking out in 23% of his appearances in that time. Most of the current Yankee lineup outside of Hicks and Gardner work shorter at-bats in favor of high contact rates, leading to too many easy innings for opposing pitchers recently. McCutchen’s walk rate is significantly above the league average and will hopefully lead to working opposing pitchers harder in September and the playoffs.
Stanton has been playing through a hamstring strain since prior to Judge’s broken wrist forcing him to the DL. The addition of McCutchen should ease the load on Stanton and allow the Yanks to give him more DH days and even a couple of days off to rest and recover.
Yankee Stadium may very well be a great match for McCutchen’s bat. McCutchen has only produced an ISO of .160 on the year, but he has bumped that up to a .198 over the last 28 days. These numbers, and his 15 home run total, are more impressive when one considers that McCutchen’s home ballpark this year was AT&T Park, a notorious pitcher’s park. Moving to Yankee Stadium (and the AL East) should help him boost his power numbers further, potentially making McCutchen even more valuable to the Yankees than it seems at first glance. McCutchen could potentially produce as much as .5 and 1 WAR for the month of September, which when considering the fact that many of his at-bats would be going to guys like Shane Robinson, could provide the Yankees with as much as 2 extra wins in value.
The Yankees did not give up nothing in this trade, despite what some of the mainstream media implications would lead fans to believe. Abital Avelino has spent this season in the high minors, and is a top-30 prospect in the Yankee farm system, and would likely be a top-10 prospect in most team’s farm system. He is a sure-handed middle infielder with a likely floor as a Major League utility man, and a ceiling as a 2nd division starter at SS or 2B if his potential at the plate is realized. De Paula is currently a starting pitcher in short-season A ball, and displays the type of stuff that misses bats, but also has significant issues with his control. De Paula is a likely candidate to move to the bullpen at some point, but could be a high-leverage reliever if he can find two pitches he can control while maintaining his stuff. These are pieces a rebuilding club like the Giants need, but were blocked by better prospects in the deep Yankee farm system. The Yankees likely will not feel the loss of De Paula, but solid middle infield prospects are always in high demand. The Yankees still have Tyler Wade at AAA and multiple decent prospects in the low minors, but you can never have too much talent up the middle.
Overall, this is a great move for the Yankees. I think that Andrew McCutchen adds some much needed skills to the current Yankee lineup, could very easily have his best baseball of 2018 ahead of him, and gets them closer to the depth needed to compete with the Red Sox and the Astros in the playoffs. While it always hurts to deal away promising ballplayers, the Yankees have enough depth remaining in their farm system to ease the pain, and there is no doubt but that McCutchen helps the Yankees in 2018.