Blue Jays: The argument for and against signing OF/DH Andrew McCutchen

Evan Gignac
Sep 13, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Andrew McCutchen (24)
Sep 13, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Andrew McCutchen (24) / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

With the roster nearly completed, the additon of role-players is something to look out for from now until March. After the non-tendering of Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer, the outfield depth is all of a sudden very thin. The trio of Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer is sure to be an effective one, but having someone else with major league experience to fill in during one of their off days seems necessary at this point.

The lone options for back-up outfielders with experience on this current roster are Whit Merrifield and Cavan Biggio. While both of these guys have solid defensive metrics in the outfield, it’d be incorrect to describe them as outfielders by trade. This shallow depth, along with the fact that the outfield is now left-handed hitting heavy, brings to light an intriguing free agent who would check off a lot of boxes for the Jays. That man is Andrew McCutchen. "Cutch" brings some certainties to a roster, along with some question marks. There’s a conversation to be had as to whether or not he’d be a worthwhile piece on the Jays roster, so let’s have it.

For:

On the surface, McCutchen’s role with the team would be pretty obvious. He’d cleanly slot into the fourth outfielder role, taking starts in both corners when any of the other outfielders has a day off, as the entire starting outfield can effectively play all three spots. He also satisfies a platoon situation, as he can spell the left-handed hitting Kiermaier and Varsho on days the Jays see a left-handed throwing starter.

A career .936 OPS against left-handers and an affinity of getting on base, Cutch would bring swag and leadership to a role the Jays are looking to fill. While the slash-line wasn’t the prettiest for the former MVP last year, he had a 105 OPS+ against lefties last year in his age 35 season.

Cutch still has wheels, too, residing in the 90th percentile in sprint speed per Baseball Savant. With McCutchen being an on-base merchant who can tag lefties, play a capable corner outfield, and bring a bright personality and veteran presence, there’s a strong case for bringing him north of the border.

Against:

The argument against is simple for me, age and projected salary. McCutchen is entering his age-36 season, and it showed at points during last season. While his offensive peripherals were all around above-average, the splits per month are kind of alarming. He combated his slow start with a strong June, a .911 OPS over 25 games in that month. He’d provide admirable results in July, then drop off the rest of the season. He finished last year slashing .237/.316/.384 with a 99 OPS+.

There’s also a question as to where he should actually be playing on the field. He DH’d 82 games last year, compared to playing in 50 games in the outfield. His capable sprint speed bodes well for him playing the field more consistently, but it’s unknown how he’ll hold up playing on turf for home games.

The projected contract could be cause for concern as well. Spotrac projected McCutchen to earn $7.6M next year, possibly on a two-year deal when compared to other players of similar age and capabilities. I only see the Jays giving him a single year deal, but given his abilities, I don't think Cutch only getting a season is a foregone conclusion. There might be the possibility of a player option for a second year.

My Verdict:

Personally, I’d be thrilled to have McCutchen on a one year deal. I’d accept some performance regression, as the Jays would mainly prioritize giving McCutchen favorable matchups against lefties, as well as bringing a strong veteran presence to a locker room looking for more leadership.

Next. MLB Network tabs Blue Jays as best "under-the-radar" offseason. dark

facebooktwitterreddit