Commentary

Get the Andrew McCutchen nonsense out of your head

Photo by Terry Foote

Photo by Terry Foote

There’s been a lot of talk on the streets about Andrew McCutchen not being a part of the Pirates in 2017. Seems the Buccos may try to trade their franchise player to get some value back. Makes sense; the Pirates are in danger of sliding back to irrelevance, so cash in now to start a quick rebuild.

And with that kind of talk comes whispers about who may be a good fit for said McCuthen. Apparently numerous people think the Phillies would be a good fit. The Phillies. The 71-91 Phillies of 2016, coming back at you in 2017, but now with Howie Kendrick and Pat Neshek. Those Phillies.

It’s time to shut this down. Because one person whispers it, then another, and soon it’s filling up social media feeds and hypes everyone up. It makes people feel the way they felt when Vince For God’s Sake Young said the Eagles were a “Dream Team.” It makes people feel the way they feel about the Flyers every October for the past 40 years. It may fill you with sunshine and sugar in the short term, but a month later you’re vomiting on Darien Street, and you have no idea how you got there. Look, it’s happened.

We do this all the time. And people are doing it about McCutchen. He’s a good player, sometimes great – though not last year – and could definitely make a good team more good. But that’s what he should be doing. He shouldn’t be making a bad team less bad. That makes no sense. You don’t want Andrew McCutchen on the Phillies. Get it out of your head. Move on. Don’t read the pieces. Don’t think about what it would take to get him. Just move on.

But so I can be clear, let’s imagine McCutchen becomes a Phillie. Let’s even imagine the sometimes great McCutchen shows up.

McCutchen would be on the team for two years, because that’s what his contract entails. He would play center field, pushing Odubel Herrera to a corner. Either Howie Kendrick takes another corner or moves to second base, meaning Cesar Hernandez is traded, and he only brings back solid value if a decent prospect is added in the deal. Anyway, McCutchen hits .315 with a .410 on-base percentage, plus 22 home runs. He also swipes 18 bags, plays good defense and helps bring the team together. Great, right? Now, imagine Herrera is relatively the same hitter as last year, maybe slightly better. Same for Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Freddy Galvis. Kendrick gives us – and I’m being charitable – a .270 average and 40 extra-base hits. And the final spot on the roster is average, to be fair, if not – again – charitable. Maybe the Phils offense leaves the major league basement in offense, but it’s certainly not an above-average offense. Not yet.

Does a 2018 with J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro (in place of Galvis, the “average” spot and Rupp) show marked improvement from 2017? Probably not; in fact, it may be regressive, since these are stone-cold rookies replacing three pieces ostensibly in their prime. So now you still have an average, at best, offense in 2018.

We haven’t even factored in pitching, which can be good, but can also be a lot of holes. Remember, we lost Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin to injuries in 2016, and while Nola is probably closest to a surefire playoff starter, we still can’t say either of them has made the leap. Then what? Jeremy Hellickson? Jake Thompson? Ben Lively? And can you count on anyone in a bullpen other than Hector Neris and Neshek?

So is the point to add a little pizzazz to the lineup? Bring a former MVP into town to increase ticket sales? That’s exactly what we don’t want the Phils to do. That’s shooting from the hip. That’s not having a strategy. That’s 1997. Or 1987. That’s “Lance us a pennant” when the Mets have transcendent talent and won the division by 22 games the year before.

Here’s the only way McCutchen works:

  1. Trade for Andrew McCutchen.
  2. Trade for another big hitter, a la Paul Goldschmidt.
  3. Trade for an elite pitcher, a la Chris Sale.
  4. Sign at least one reliever, a la Kenley Jansen.
  5. Stuff the roster with established depth.

But to do that you’re trading close to a dozen prospects and adding at least $80 million in payroll. The Phillies can do it. They have the space, the resources and the front office acumen.

But seriously. That’s really stupid.

Now, basically, you’re back in 2013 with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon. Only maybe you have a couple decent prospects left. But now the pressure is really on Franco, Herrera, or whoever the heck is young and still on the roster. Seriously, this is really stupid.

There is no other reason to acquire Andrew McCutchen (and by the way, love the guy … does awesome things, really funny – he made me and Neil Walker crack up once). He makes the 71-91 Phillies a 75-86 team, at best. Add in Kendrick and Neshek and – hopefully – positive developments from all young players, and now you have – maybe – an 81-81 team. Maybe if the front office is savvy in the 2017 offseason it can turn the Phils into an 86-88-win team, which might get you in the wild card game. But that’s one game. One freaking game. That’s not what you’re playing for in 21st century baseball. You’re playing to be a champion. And two years of McCutchen doesn’t get the Phils any closer to that reality. If anything, it hurts them.

So no. Get it out of your head. Move on. Andrew McCutchen can go to Texas or San Francisco, places where the team is already in playoff contention. That makes sense.

This doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile the Phillies announced the hiring of former Twins General Manager Terry Ryan as a special assignment scout. That’s clearly a better move right now than trading for Andrew McCutchen.

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