Given the New York Mets’ track record over the years when it comes to acquiring marquee names, the chances of acquiring Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen are probably slim to none. Yet on Thursday, the Atlantic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Mets and Pirates have held discussions over the past two offseasons regarding the 31-year-old, whose contract expires at the end of the 2018 season.
He was quick to add that no deal was close, a status that will likely remain until McCutchen is either dealt to another team or hits free agency next winter.
The Pirates look to be in a minor rebuild of sorts as two of their largest names are currently being shopped. Along with McCutchen, ace Gerrit Cole has been on the market since the Winter Meetings and has been linked with the crosstown Yankees.
McCutchen continues to be a serviceable bat, although he has had some defensive issues that saw him splitting time between his natural center and right field. After a 2016 season in which he batted a career-worst .256, McCutchen came back strong in 2017, batting .279 with 28 home runs and 88 RBI.
But with his contract expiring and the Pirates mired in mediocrity within a loaded National League Central division that features the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and developing Milwaukee Brewers, dealing McCutchen before facing the possibility of losing him in free agency could bring in some younger assets to help give the club a new identity.
This is where the problem comes in for the Mets, who do not have a bevy of elite young talent they could offer Pittsburgh. One would have to believe that shortstop and last year’s top prospect Amed Rosario is off the table. It would also be foolish to deal the possible future face of the franchise or further gut the farm system for, at the worst-case scenario, a one-year rental.
The Mets currently do not have a single prospect ranked within MLB Pipeline’s top 100, which would force general manager Sandy Alderson to try and entice Pittsburgh with a package of lower-tier prospects and current major leaguers.
Top prospect, pitcher David Peterson, is in single-A Brooklyn and still needs to refine his arsenal of pitchers, especially his changeup and curveball. But a pitcher with a plus fastball and slider combination on the table for a Pirates franchise that is facing the loss of their ace and could use some future assets to bolster the rotation might at least listen.
He could be packaged with another prospect like shortstop Andres Gimenez and MLB outfielder Juan Lagares, one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball. But it’s extremely unlikely that would be good enough for the Pirates, who are also in talks with the San Francisco Giants for McCutchen. Per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the Pirates want one of San Francisco’s top three prospects, though the Giants are reluctant to part with them after thinning out their farm system in the deal for Evan Longoria.
Should the Pirates not find any offers that blow them away, they could very well hold McCutchen until the trade deadline where a team on the verge of contention might be willing to part with more in order to acquire an All-Star-caliber bat for the stretch run.
But I wouldn’t expect the Mets to be in serious contention for him.