By Jared Lankes
It’s been very widely-speculated that Andrew McCutchen could be on the move during the July 31st Non-Waiver trade deadline period. However, this is not as obvious of a move as it seems to be. In fact, a couple of factors have showed up in the last couple weeks that should discourage the Pittsburgh Pirates from moving on from the face of their franchise right now.
The most obvious factor that shows up is that the Pirates are playing much better lately, propelling them back in contention. Over the month of July, the Pirates have started to show up with the potential that people know they have with this young team that may just be starting to bud at the right time. If we believe this is the case, then there’s no point in tearing this core apart. The Pirates could be better in 2018 with the young players developing more and hopefully full seasons from Starling Marte and Jameson Taillon (Jung-Ho Kang is an outside possibility too). A big proponent of staying competitive in 2018 might be to have McCutchen as the team still seems to ride or die as he does.
Another reason to keep McCutchen is the questions surrounding Austin Meadows. By all accounts, Meadows was scheduled to be up in the bigs this July. However, he has had slower development than anticipated in AAA, mainly due to multiple injuries involving his hamstrings. So, Meadows may not be ready for quite awhile yet, and it would not be a total shock to not see him in the MLB in 2017 or even most of 2018. The main reason the Pirates were wanting to trade McCutchen in the first place is because they thought they could smoothly transition to Meadows when the time was right. That possible transition has been anything but smooth to this point.
Additionally, the only other outfield options they have after McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco are non-everyday MLB outfield options such as Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna, John Jaso, Chris Bostick, and Danny Ortiz. So, it could behoove the Pirates to keep McCutchen, even into 2018 as they play the wait-and-see game with Meadows, whose first full MLB season might not come until McCutchen is gone in 2019 anyways (Jordan Luplow could be an option in 2019 as well).
The third reason why keeping McCutchen for now might be a good idea is the outfield trade market. We already knew that the market for that position would be a buyer’s market, but I didn’t expect it to be as one-sided as it is. A few days ago, the Tigers traded away JD Martinez, the most-coveted bat in this market, to the Diamondbacks for basically scraps, proving how bad of a time it is to trade away outfielders. We know Neal Huntington won’t trade McCutchen just to trade him and settle for a weak haul; he’ll want a big haul in return, and I just cannot see a team giving that right now.
Well, my friends, it appears that we will not have to say goodbye to Andrew McCutchen just yet as it would seem like the Pirates have all the reasons they could ever need to keep him now. Between suddenly contending, questions about Meadows, and a weak market, the Pirates need to see what they can do while McCutchen is still around instead of trading him away and moving on.