The Yankees acquired 2013 National League MVP, Andrew McCutchen, from the Giants for a pair of minor-league prospects on Friday. A five-time All-Star, McCutchen hit .255 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI in 130 games for San Francisco this season.
The move was necessitated by the Yankees’ need for outfield help. Aaron Judge was placed on the 10-day DL on July 27 to a right wrist fracture. The Yankees were initially hopeful that Judge—the reigning 2017 American League Rookie of the Year—could return in about three weeks. That didn’t prove to be the case as Judge has yet to even swing a bat. There is no timetable for his return.
New York has mostly used Neil Walker and Shane Robinson in right field during Judge’s absence. Giancarlo Stanton has been dealing with a hamstring injury, which has limited him defensively. He’s been used mostly as the club’s DH during this time frame.
Between Walker and Robinson, Walker is the better hitter. He’s posted a respectable .808 OPS with six home runs and 15 RBI in 29 games since Judge was placed on the DL in late July. Robinson has hit just .130 with one home run and two RBI in 22 games during that same span.
Walker was put in right field out of necessity. Prior to the 2018 season, Walker had never played a game in the outfield. He has a -1 DRS (defensive runs saved) in 95 innings in right field. Honestly, the only reason Robinson saw any time at all was due to his defense. Robinson has a +2 DRS in 92-and-two-thirds innings in right field in 2018.
Both Walker and Robinson will likely see diminished playing time thanks to the acquisition of McCutchen. For the time being, McCutchen will likely start in right field, while Stanton remains at DH. Stanton has started in 132 of New York’s 134 games this season, despite playing through an injury. He’s had no choice, considering the DL stints needed for Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. The good news for the Yankees—in addition to the acquisition of McCutchen—is that Sanchez could return on Saturday and Gregorius could return by Monday. Having three prolific sluggers in the lineup could relieve the their dependence on Stanton and allow him to take a day-or-two off in the coming weeks.
McCutchen isn’t the hitter he used to be. His .255 batting average in on pace to be the worst of his career. His 15 home runs are also his fewest in a single-season since smacking just 12 homers in his rookie year of 2009. However, the blame shouldn’t fall on McCutchen’s shoulders alone. 64 of his 130 games this year have come at the spacious AT&T Park in San Francisco. The 31-year old veteran hit just five homers in those 64 contests, compared to hitting ten long balls in 66 road games this season.
There have been just 109 home runs hit at AT&T Park in 2018, which is the second-fewest in baseball among the 30 major-league parks. Only Tropicana Field (107) has produced fewer homers in 2018. McCutchen will be joining a club that plays at Yankee Stadium, which has produced the most home runs (201) of any park in the majors this season.
And now for some historical context on McCutchen. He becomes the twelfth former MVP to be acquired by the Yankees. The names are below. Please note this list doesn’t include players to win an MVP with the Yankees—i.e., Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Don Mattingly. It also doesn’t include MVP’s who played with New York before winning the award, such as Rickey Henderson.
Former MVP winners acquired by the Yankees
|Player||MVP Year||Year(s) with Yankees|
|Andrew McCutchen||2013 NL||2018|
|Giancarlo Stanton||2017 NL||2018|
|Alex Rodriguez||2003 AL||2004-2013, 2015-2016|
|Ichiro Suzuki||2001 AL||2012-2014|
|Jason Giambi||2000 AL||2002-2008|
|Ivan Rodriguez||1999 AL||2008|
|Jose Canseco||1988 AL||2000|
|Roger Clemens||1986 AL||1999-2003, 2007|
|Don Baylor||1979 AL||1983-1985|
|Reggie Jackson||1973 AL||1977-1981|
|Bobby Shantz||1952 AL||1957-1960|
|Jim Konstanty||1950 NL||1954-1956|
The MVP awards have been voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America since 1931.
The acquisition of McCutchen also brings about an interesting question for New York. Who will the Yankees play in the outfield come postseason time? Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Judge, Stanton and McCutchen will be vying for three outfield spots and one DH spot. Should New York advance to a full series round (ALDS, ALCS, World Series), one (or more) of those players will be on the bench.
My best guess as of right now? When healthy, Stanton will start in left field. He’s made 31 starts in left this season. Hicks and Gardner will each see time in centerfield. Judge will start in right, while McCutchen sees time at DH. On days Judge needs a half-day off, McCutchen could see time in right, while Judge starts at DH.
It’ll be interesting to see if McCutchen can do for the Yankees what Justin Verlander did for the Astros last season—bring home a World Series title.