Last Tuesday reports surfaced out of the Winter Meetings that the Phillies were adding an Outfielder who is former NL MVP. It was not the one that most Phillies fans had hoped it would be when the team signed former NL MVP with the Pirates Andrew McCutchen. The Phillies made the deal official on Wednesday by announcing it on the team’s twitter page.
OFFICIAL: #Phillies and outfielder Andrew McCutchen have agreed to terms on a three-year contract. The deal includes a fourth-year club option for the 2022 season.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) December 13, 2018
The Athletic’s Matt Gelb has the dollar figures for the contract here:
The Andrew McCutchen deal is for three years — plus a club option — and $50 million, according to sources.
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) December 11, 2018
The Phillies fill a corner outfield spot with the signing of McCutchen as Rhys Hoskins is expected to move from left field back to his natural position of first base after the trade of Carlos Santana to the Mariners that netted the team SS Jean Segura. The signing of a corner outfielder was a move the team needed to make, especially without knowing if Bryce Harper would sign in Philadelphia, or the Phillies would potentially have been going into 2019 with an outfield of Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Nick Williams as its starters. You could make an argument that Andrew McCutchen is the best outfielder of that group.
Andrew McCutchen has undoubtedly declined from his peak years in Pittsburgh where he finished in the top 5 of MVP voting four years in a row and winning the award in 2012. From 2011-2015 Andrew McCutchen accumulated a 34.3 FanGraphs WAR (fWAR). Only one player in baseball had a higher fWAR than McCutchen in that time period. That player is Mike Trout. The Phillies won’t be getting that Andrew McCutchen but the one they are getting is still a good player.
After a bad 2016 that season that saw McCutchen only post a 1.1 fWAR and a 104 OPS+ he has put together two good seasons back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. In 2017 McCutchen slashed .279/.363/.486 with 28 homeruns, a 3.7 fWAR, and a 123 OPS+. In 2018 McCutchen slashed .255/.368/.424 with 20 homeruns, a 2.6 fWAR, and a 118 OPS+. McCutchen started his 2018 with the Giants and, naturally, his SLG% took a step back hitting in a pitcher’s park. McCutchen is very good at hitting the ball to right-center field for power and due AT&T Park’s huge right-center field he was not able to do that as successfully. McCutchen only slugged .415 with the Giants before getting traded to the Yankees in August after which he slugged .471. McCutchen also saw his OPS+, which is park adjusted, rise from 113 with the Giants to 141 in his 25 games with the Yankees. I expect McCutchen to put up numbers closer to his 2017 stats with the Pirates now that he is playing in a more hitter-friendly ballpark in Citizens Bank Park.
McCutchen has also a more refined approach at the plate as he has gotten older. McCutchen works counts and doesn’t swing a pitches outside of the zone. According to FanGraphs, McCutchen’s 13.9% BB% was good for 12th in baseball in 2018 and his 19.4% O-Swing% (swings at pitches outside the zone) was the 2nd lowest in baseball behind only the Reds Joey Votto. McCutchen also maintained his career Hard Hit% (balls hit 95+ MPH) in 2018 at 41.8 % according to Baseball Savant. McCutchen has also maintained his running speed according to Baseball Savant. McCutchen’s sprint speed in ft/s since 2015:
2015: 28.5 ft/s
2016: 29.1 ft/s
2017: 28.8 ft/s
2018: 28.7 ft/s
McCutchen’s maintained sprint speed over the past 4 years bodes well for him and the Phillies as his contract goes on. McCutchen also provides an upgrade defensively for the Phillies. McCutchen is no longer the good defensive center fielder he once was but he is still good defensively as a corner outfielder. Rhys Hoskins moving back to 1B and having McCutchen play a corner outfield spot is an instant upgrade for the Phillies.
Andrew McCutchen is also incredibly reliable. Since 2010, McCutchen has played in 153 games or more in every season but one and in that one season he played in 146 games. The other outfield options the Phillies were considering like Michael Brantley and AJ Pollock have huge injury concerns and I can see that being a big contributor the them signing McCutchen over either of those two. Not only is McCutchen reliable he is a great clubhouse guy to have on team full of young players.
McCutchen might not be the MVP-caliber 6 WAR player he once was but he is 32, not 36 like some fans would have you believe, and he is still a good player. I think McCutchen can maintain being around a 3 WAR for the duration of the 3-year contract with the Phillies all while providing good defense in the corner outfield.
Stats Courtesy of: [FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant]
Featured Image: [Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports]
Graduate from Indiana University of PA. SMWW Certified Scout.