There is simplicity in a mid-January trade like Monday’s, in which the San Francisco Giants acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That is, the Pirates have decided to play for another day. That day is not today. It may not be tomorrow. They’ll get back to you on the specifics. For McCutchen, they will receive Kyle Crick, a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher with a 3.06 ERA in 32 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2017, and Bryan Reynolds, a switch-hitting outfield prospect drafted 59th overall in 2016.
Following three seasons that reached (and ended quickly, granted) in October, the Pirates missed the playoffs in consecutive years, veered from 98 wins to 78 to 75, dealt ace Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros on Saturday and two days later offloaded their franchise player, as well. They are moving talent. They are moving money. And now comes the hard part for a franchise whose two decade-long dry spell had been turned by the likes of McCutchen and Cole – discovering the next McCutchen and Cole. It’s not likely either arrived in the past few days.
The Giants, who chased three World Series championships in under a decade with a last-place, 98-loss, 40-games-out clunker in 2017, still believe in today. Because, they almost certainly believe, they couldn’t possibly be that bad/banged up/unlucky again. And also because they’re on the hook for decent money with Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and, as of a few weeks ago, Evan Longoria for at least a few more years, and Madison Bumgarner is healthy again, so you don’t pull the plug on all that even if you could, which you probably can’t.
So, on Dec. 20 they traded for Longoria, the best player in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays, who also is 32 years old. He cost them four players, including prospect Christian Arroyo, but cleaned up a problem position for them, and is one of the sturdier personalities in the game. The other obvious problem position(s) was in the outfield, where a good portion of those 98 losses could be pinned, both offensively and defensively. When the Pirates pulled the trigger on Cole, there’d be no more feigning designs on 2018 competency, a fact that surely wasn’t lost on the Giants.
McCutchen is a five-time All-Star, an MVP and, like Longoria, one of those guys who feels good to play alongside of. He had a fairly miserable 2016 season on the offensive side, then was moved out of center field until the Pirates were caught short there, but rebounded in 2017 to post an .849 OPS and 28 home runs. Good for him, as he can be a free agent after the 2018 season, and good for the Pirates, who’d seemingly been shopping him for better than a year.
The Giants won’t necessarily be satisfied with Longoria and McCutchen. While they fit with the theme of this offseason, as a team with one eye on building a better ballclub and the other on the luxury tax threshold, another outfielder could be required. In a slow-moving market, Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gonzalez and others remain, and wait, and there are options in the trade market as well, including Billy Hamilton.
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