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How the Andrew McCutchen trade could end up helping the Yankees

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The Yankees can’t trade Jacoby Ellsbury to the Giants, but they can acquire Josh Harrison

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

More than anything in the world, the Yankees want to be rid of Jacoby Ellsbury before the start of the 2018 season. They have no second or third baseman currently, but it’s the status of Ellsbury as a $63 million bench player over the next three years that the team wants to deal with the most. The Giants’ acquisition of Andrew McCutchen has ruined their last best chance of dumping Ellsbury, but the trade could help them in another way.

On Monday, the Pirates sent their franchise player to San Francisco for Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. Inserting McCutchen into center field at AT&T Park immediately solves San Francisco’s problems in the outfield and basically makes an expensive, underperforming Ellsbury even more unattractive. This should not be good new for the Yankees, but it is when you consider that the sell-off could be hurting Pittsburgh’s relationship with third baseman Josh Harrison.

In a week that saw the Pirates trade off Gerrit Cole and now McCutchen, Harrison used Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic to issue a statement to the front office of his team. “If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded,” he told Rosenthal. If the Pirates listen to his wishes, the Yankees need to come calling.

Back when Brian Cashman was trying to trade for Cole, he also attempted to acquire Harrison at the same time. The Yankees had interest in him then, and they will certainly have interest in him now that he’s calling for a trade. The Yankees like him because he’s exactly the kind of player they want at this point in the offseason. Harrison has the ability to play both second and third and he’s also cheap.

A Pirate since 2011, Harrison is now the longest tenured member of his team. After several mediocre years, he broke out in 2014 when he hit .315/.347/.490 with 13 home runs and went to the All-Star Game. That performance earned him a four-year extension with two club options for the 2019 and 2020 season, and then he seemingly fell back down to earth as a league-average hitter. He is only due to make $10 million in 2018 and won’t get in the way of a potential signing of Manny Machado next year.

All this being said, Josh Harrison isn’t likely to have much sway when it comes to the Pirates deciding whether or not to trade him. It really comes down to what the front office wants to do from here. Basically, if they do look to trade him, there’s no way they have much leverage now, because what are they going to do, keep him? If they keep Harrison, it’s possible he becomes even more agitated with the team’s direction and it hurts the clubhouse.

The Giants getting McCutchen doesn’t exactly help the Yankees get rid of Ellsbury, but it did open up a crack that could have damaged relations with one of their best players. The Pirates are now stuck in a situation where they can’t really win, which lines the Yankees up to get a great deal.