The Washington Nationals want a true centerfielder. With a thin free agency market, will they go after Andrew McCutchen via trade? They should.
The centerfielder is under contract for 2017 and has a team option in place for 2018. Dollar wise, his deal pays $14 million next year and, potentially, $14.5 the next. If you are needing a proven outfield bat, say to hit with Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, McCutchen would be a good option.
Never confused as a defensive guru—his defensive WAR registered a -2.6 in 2016—McCutchen brings another veteran presence on a young team trying to advance in the playoffs. If, the Pittsburgh Pirates will move him.
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McCutchen is Pittsburgh’s biggest trade chip. A package headlined by a young starter like Lucas Giolito or Joe Ross could draw enough interest to get a deal done. After the Ben Revere experiment flamed out, Washington brought Trea Turner up from Triple-A Syracuse to fill the role.
Turner had a half-season for the ages, No one, however, expects him to remain an outfielder. Before this season, he never played center professionally and squeezed in seven games with the Chiefs before coming to Washington. On their shopping list from the Hot Stove catalog is a genuine outfielder.
Ian Desmond—an old friend—loves Washington, but he is a true infielder. Although a popular clubhouse player, his defense in center is worse than Turner’s and his strikeout rate matches shortstop Danny Espinosa’s. Unless they try to overpay for soon-to-be free agent Yoenis Cespedes, McCutchen is a cheaper alternative.
Maybe not in the prospects needed to get him, but you figure there is no way Cespedes signs a two-year deal for $28.5 million. With the New York Mets, Cespedes seems bored at times and unwilling to play center. There is a siren song associated with his bat, but he rebuked Mike Rizzo and the Nationals once already.
If they try to score McCutchen, they get a former National League MVP who is the most popular Pirate in a generation. Motivation will not be a problem. His goal is the same as Washington, win a championship.
This was not a great year. An annual .300 hitter, McCutchen’s batting average dipped to .256 and his on-base percentage dropped from .401 to .336. He drew 98 walks in 2015, but 69 this season. Still, he slammed 20 homers for a sixth straight season and scored 81 runs. He was not an All-Star, but made the squad five times before.
Sometimes, it is the little pieces that win championships. Yes, McCutchen is not a little one, but getting him and playing Turner at his native short can make the difference in watching a World Series at home or parading past the White House.