Over a month after Aaron Judge injured his wrist, the Yankees have reportedly made a move to finally shore up their outfield, trading for Giants outfielder Andrew McCutchen. The days of starting Shane Robinson in right field appear to be over as the Yankees have acquired another former NL MVP.
The Yankees will evidently be sending the Giants a pair of prospects for McCutchen. The headliner is Abiatal Avelino, a 23-year-old middle infielder with lots of defensive versatility but no pop. Avelino has run a .252/.291/.372 slash line in Triple-A this year. Juan De Pauala, a starting pitcher for Low-A Charleston, is the second piece.
Avelino ranked 23rd on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Yankees’ top 30 prospects before the trade. That the Giants were able to score even that level of prospect indicates that the Yankees might be receiving some sort of salary relief in the deal. McCutchen is owed roughly $3 million the rest of the way, and with the Yankees nearing the luxury tax threshold, the Giants could be on the hook for some of that money.
The main upshot is clear: Judge’s initial three-week recovery prognosis was aggressive, and the superstar right fielder is progressing slower than hoped. Trotting out Robinson in Judge’s stead proved untenable, and the Yankees needed insurance in case Judge’s wrist continued to bother him.
In steps McCutchen. The 31-year-old veteran’s glory days are long gone, as the form that made McCutchen an All-Star every year from 2011 to 2015 has eluded him. That being said, McCutchen seems to have settled in as a declining but capable player. He’s posted a .268/.360/.453 slash line since the beginning of 2017, good for a 117 OPS+. McCutchen also can man all three outfield spots in a pinch, and while his declining athleticism means he’s no longer plus in center, he profiles as solid in either corner.
McCutchen just brings plenty to the table for the Yankees for the final month-plus of the season. The Yankees now have four strong outfield options on the active roster, and McCutchen can spell any of the current starters that need a breather. That’s a necessity, as Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton have all carried a heavy load since Judge went down.
Adding McCutchen provides all three the opportunity to rest, and it allows the Yankees to make sure Judge is 100% before bringing him back. The Yankees need to do their best to ensure Judge is as healthy as possible before the postseason commences, and there is even less reason to rush him back with McCutchen in the fold.
Moreover, McCutchen brings the Yankees’ likability quotient to what must be an uncomfortably high level for the portion of the world that hates the Yankees. McCutchen has long combined skill with flair and class. Adding him to a group that already includes Judge, Didi Gregorius, young studs Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, and more makes what was already a talented team even easier to root for.
Watching the team has been frustrating at times over the past month, and the fact that they moved so slowly in the wake of Judge’s injury was puzzling. It’s easier to breathe now, as the Yankees added a quality player and person at a small cost. McCutchen makes the Yankees better, makes them more fun, and raises their floor. It’s unlikely McCutchen will be what pushes the Yankees over the top and to the World Series, but he moves the needle just a bit in the right direction. And if all goes well, it would be outstanding to see McCutchen win his first ring as a member of the Yankees.