A name that has been talked a whole lot in Blue Jays circles over the last couple seasons, and a player that a lot of Jays fans have really pined for, will not be playing for the Blue Jays in the final year of his contract. According to Ken Rosenthal, Andrew McCutchen has been traded to the San Francisco Giants.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 15, 2018
I’m not going to lie, my instinct is to almost always want to preemptively shut down the inevitable pissing and moaning from fans about how the dumb, cheap Jays couldn’t have somehow done better than what Team X was willing to pay for Player Y. It’s just the worst to have to agree with, and empower the types of people who are constantly wrong about everything. But… ahh… this one feels like that’s perhaps going to be harder to do. Depending on the package, of course. McCutchen was a realistic-seeming option that offered about as much talent relative to cost of any of the potential corner outfield upgrades the Jays could have made. We assume! At least among the available names that we’ve heard so far.
We shall see! I’ll update this post once we know what the return is going to be.
In the meantime, hey, at least this means there’s one less suitor for Lorenzo Cain, I guess.
The #SFGiants were never involved in JD Martinez free-agent market, and now say they also are out on Lorenzo Cain after grabbing Andrew McCutchen.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 15, 2018
OK, so now we know the full deal and can finally have some thoughts:
Confirmed: Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick to Pittsburgh for McCutchen. Unclear if there is any money being exchanged. Doesn't appear to be.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) January 15, 2018
So the question is, what could the Jays have done to beat a package like this? As expected it’s not exactly an enormous price — take note those who are certain the Jays were going to get an enormous bounty for a year of Josh Donaldson! — but it’s hardly nothing.
Crick is an interesting one. He’s a hard-throwing right-hander who just turned 25 and spent half of 2017 in the big leagues as a reliever, where he got some nice looking results despite issuing far too many free passes. He’s had command issues throughout his minor league career, but he has pedigree (he was the 16th overall pick in 2011 and was a top 100 prospect from 2013 to 2015) and presumably is someone Pittsburgh thinks can be helped by pitching coach Ray Searage, who has gotten plenty of mileage out of helping formerly wild throwers like A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano. It’s hard to find a great comp for him among the Jays’ possible options, though Joe Biagini — who Crick used to be ahead of in the Giants’ system — has at least a bit of a similar shape. Biagini is a couple years older, has a year less of control, and commands better, but they check some of the same boxes: starter turned reliever who might go back to starting; right-handers; throw in the mid 90s; similar strikeout numbers.
Without getting into actual important stuff, like arsenals and whatnot, let’s just say that in a vacuum based just on skill and accomplishments at the big league level, you want Biagini. But add in the extra cheap year of control? Then potentially add another one at the league minimum, depending on whether the Pirates keep Crick down long enough to avoid becoming a Super Two — which Biagini is (i.e. he’ll go through arbitration four times rather than the usual three)? Then add that you’re a team that thinks Crick’s command issues can be fixed? Maybe the two add up to something similar there.
Do you offer five years of Joe Biagini for one of McCutchen?
And then there’s Bryan Reynolds. Baseball Prospectus had Reynolds as the third best Giants prospect, while Baseball America had him fifth. The Giants’ system isn’t a great one, so those rankings can be misleading, but Reynolds is a real prospect.
“The risk here is that Reynolds ends up a tweener,” BP says. “Not enough range for centre, not enough bat for a corner.”
They give him a 50 for his overall future potential, which grades out to an average outfielder, though they say the more likely outcome is a 45, which would make him a “fourth outfielder that won’t kill you in center.”
The Jays have an outfielder with very different flaws, but who I think it worth discussing here: Teoscar Hernández.
In last year’s Astros write-up at BP, Hernández was also given a 50 OFP, and was viewed as even riskier than Reynolds, with a 40 being his likely ultimate grade (which put him as a platoon/bench player). Did Teoscar do enough to seriously change those grades over the course of the 2017? His spectacular September may have moved the needle, and he had a nice year in Triple-A, but his contact issues looked even worse, so perhaps it’s a wash. BP also called him a possible “tweener” last year.
Do you offer five years of Biagini and six of Hernández for one of McCutchen? No, you don’t. And while I think that my methods here are far too crude to believe it’s anything but a stretch to say that’s the equivalent of what the Giants have done here, we need to keep in mind that the Jays would have needed to beat that to get the deal done. Hernández and Biagini certainly would have beaten that. Could the Jays have beaten if they’d passed on Yangervis Solarte and used Edward Olivares in place of Teoscar? Could they have beaten the Giants’ offer with Jonathan Davis (a future 45 per MLB Pipeline) in place of Hernández? How about with Conner Greene as the hard thrower with command issues in place of Crick? Or some combination of any of these names?
If it was just Davis and Green that would certainly start to look like a more palatable idea to Jays fans, I think. But I’m not so sure it would to the Pirates. And I have no clue if that’s any better for the Jays’ front office, either. Years of control are really important! Arms like Greene’s shouldn’t be given up on so easily! And what might they be able to get for those pieces that has more than a single year of control left?
Thing is, if the system was a little bit deeper, or if the Jays were at a different spot on the win curve, maybe they would have pushed harder here. It certainly would have been exciting. But I think it’s important to remember that the price here wasn’t exactly nothing, and beating that price — and, especially, beating what the Pirates think of that price — is not as easy as it looks.
The Jays sure as hell could use an upgrade in the outfield — I fall short of saying that they have to do something, because if they get a significant enough upgrade elsewhere they could make it work with what they have — and McCutchen would have been a great one, and a fun one. But there are still moves out there to be made. It makes little sense to get upset until we know for sure that they’ve ended up holding the bag.
If that does happen they’ll deserve all the criticism they get. Criticism for missing here? Quite a bit trickier.