Andrew McCutchen is a shadow of the player that won the 2013 NL MVP. But he is still an extraordinary upgrade on Shane Robinson and as good an insurance policy for Aaron Judge as the Yankees could get this late in a season.
That is why the Yankees were on the brink of obtaining McCutchen from the Giants on Thursday night for two minor leaguers. The deal was considered near the finish line, but not done. As long as it is completed by Friday midnight, McCutchen would be eligible to be on the Yankees’ playoff roster.
The Yankees have been without Judge, who has a chip fracture of his right wrist, since July 27. Initially, they had hoped he could return in three weeks, then amended that to 5-6 weeks. But five weeks into the healing, Judge has not yet even swung a bat. Even if he returns now, the Yankees cannot be sure with his violent swing what they will be getting at this late date.
Clint Frazier (who began a rehab Thursday) and Jacoby Ellsbury (out for the year) also have not been available and the Yankees have traded a load of outfielders such as Ben Gamel, Billy McKinney and Jake Cave in recent years, who would be on the major league roster now.
That has had them playing Neil Walker out of position in right field or turning to the journeyman Robinson, whose 0-for-4 in an 8-7 loss Thursday to the Tigers dropped his average to .143. In addition, Aaron Boone has probably had to play Brett Gardner more than he had hoped through this outfield injury period and even use Giancarlo Stanton more than he had hoped.
McCutchen, even diminished with his 32nd birthday approaching in October, is still a starting major league outfielder. He is hitting .255 this year with 15 homers and a .772 OPS and playing exclusively right field. McCutchen got through waivers, which meant he could be traded to any team.
McCutchen makes $14.75M this year, but as part of the trade last offseason that sent him from the Pirates to the Giants, Pittsburgh picked up $2.5 million. Thus, McCutchen has roughly $2 million left. Even if the Yankees picked up that whole amount, it would not put them over the $197 million luxury tax threshold that they have vowed to stay beneath.
One of the two prospects the Giants would receive is infielder Abiatal Avelino, who between Double- and Triple-A was hitting .287 with 15 homers this year.
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