When the Yankees traded for Andrew McCutchen on August 31, it came with the understanding that he would just serve as a rental player. A hired gun, McCutchen would fill in for the injured Aaron Judge, participate in the club’s playoff push, then sign a lucrative free agent contract elsewhere. That progression of events seemed self-evident.
Not so fast, now, as the plot thickens. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is reporting that the Yankees have some interest in bringing the outfielder back next season.
If the Yankees can cut a reasonable deal, they’d like to have Andrew McCutchen, who will be a free agent, back next season. The Yankees like him on the field and in the clubhouse. The Yankees could part ways with left fielder Brett Gardner, who has been reduced to a bench role and whose $12.5 million club option will likely be bought out for $2 million. And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury could return in 2019.
Declining Gardner’s option seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. The longest-tenured Yankee has struggled mightily this season, hitting just .237/.325/.366 with 12 home runs over 133 games. His 90 wRC+ represents the lowest mark since his rookie season. As a fan favorite, moving on from Gardner would hurt. It’s probably the right baseball move, not though, not like passing on Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon following the 2009 season.
Signing McCutchen, meanwhile, makes for a more difficult decision. The 31-year-old has played very well since joining the Bombers. He owns a .237/.425/.492 triple-slash in pinstripes, with four home runs to boot. If that’s not impressive enough, consider his 153 wRC+ on the month. McCutchen has shown he can still handle a leadoff role, and perform in New York during a playoff run. Both of those factors add to his
The question, of course, boils down to a contract. At 31, he shouldn’t command a particularly long deal. At the same time, he’s probably looking for more than the three-year, $45 million pact Carlos Beltran commanded prior the 2014 season. Even with the luxury tax penalties reset, would the Yankees spend significant money on outfielder who’s on the wrong side of 30?
Things get more complicated when one remembers Clint Frazier expects to report to spring training fully healthy. It’s possible the Yankees move Red Thunder for a pitcher, but would they do that when his value is at its lowest? His league minimum salary could come in handy if the Bombers paid top dollar for the likes of Manny Machado. There are a lot of variables to think through here.
McCutchen has been nothing short of awesome since joining the Yankees. I know fans would love to see more of him, and apparently the front office does as well. What do you think? Should the team pursue Cutch this winter? Let us know in the comment section!