SAN FRANCISCO - Whenever a marquee free agent signs in the offseason, people around the league talk about the floodgates opening for other deals. For the Giants, the hope is that a weekend trade, not a signing, might be the trigger for increased movement.
The Pittsburgh Pirates dealt right-hander Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros on Saturday, signaling that they are, in fact, ready to take a step back and trade their best players for prospects. The Giants and Pirates have remained in touch in recent weeks, with the front office hopeful that a Cole deal would motivate the Pirates to next trade Andrew McCutchen, per sources.
Thus far, the teams have appeared to find little traction in talks. The Pirates originally went straight to the top of the Giants' prospect list, and one person familiar with talks characterized recent discussions as complicated. It's unclear if the Pirates have lowered their demands, but they generally were viewed as getting a subpar package for Cole, so it's possible they've simply reached deal-making mode.
While Cole drew interest from the best teams in the majors, McCutchen's field would appear to be more limited. He is owed $14.75 million in the final year of his deal, and there are enough outfielders still on the market that teams don't need to rush into a bidding war. The Giants view him as a strong fit for several reasons, including that salary that would only be on their books for one year. They prefer to stay under the $197 million tax line, and despite what some public estimates of their payroll might show, a source said the Giants could trade for McCutchen's entire salary and still remain just under the tax.
McCutchen is not quite the player he once was, but he bounced back last season to hit 28 homers and post a .849 OPS. Combined with Evan Longoria, he would give the Giants a couple of veteran right-handed contributors for a lineup that was last in the majors in homers in 2017 and has leaned too far to the left in recent seasons.
McCutchen's one-year deal would fit the win-now mode of a franchise that has just two guaranteed years remaining with Madison Bumgarner, and he would help fill the biggest remaining need for an aging roster. While McCutchen has slipped defensively in recent years, he likely would be asked to move to right field in San Francisco, with a superior defender - potentially an in-house choice like Gorkys Hernandez or Steven Duggar - patrolling center field and Hunter Pence sliding over to left.