With Josh Donaldson heading to Atlanta, the Tampa Bay Rays will need to focus their attention elsewhere as they look to add an impact bat. Could Andrew McCutchen be an option?
The reported contract agreed upon between third baseman Josh Donaldson and the Atlanta Braves is worth 23 million for one year. If this is indeed the case, Donaldson was never a viable option for the Tampa Bay Rays to sign in the first place. So, where do the frugal Rays look next?
Do they become more aggressive on the trade market making an effort to acquire Paul Goldschmidt or Jose Abreu? Do they pursue Nelson Cruz more aggressively now? Or, do they think a little outside of the box and sign former National League MVP, Andrew McCutchen?
I think the latter of the three options could become a real possibility this offseason for the Rays. The five time all-star could and four time sliver slugger winning outfielder could be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay, here’s why:
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Depth in the outfield:
With Kevin Kiermaier prone to injury and Austin Meadows scheduled to get his first substantial amount of playing time in the major leagues, adding outfield depth should be a priority for the Rays this winter.
Yes, the Rays added Guillermo Heredia in the trade for Mike Zunino, but make no mistake, Heredia is only here as a defensive replacement. If the Rays can find a better bat who can also play the outfield well, they would be wise to make the switch.
Wouldn’t there be a surplus of everyday outfielders though? No, with 4 quality options in the outfield, the Rays would be able to give each outfielder a day off their feet and let them DH at least once a week. Adding McCutchen could be crucial in keeping Kiermaier healthy in 2019.
The added depth also protects against Meadows’ possible struggles which can be expected when a young hitter has a prolonged exposure to big league pitching for the first time. Having McCutchen ready to step in during a Meadows slump could prove pivotal as the Rays will be looking to contend and will not be able to give away at-bats.
Power from the right side:
McCutchen, may not add the power that Nelson Cruz does from the right side, but he does provide pop nonetheless. Since 2011, he has hit at least 20 homers each season. Since the 2011 season, he has averaged 24 bombs and 85 runs batted in. In those 8 seasons, he has posted a 137 OPS+ and slugged at a .486 clip.
As I have mentioned before, I do not expect the Rays to begin the season with a designated hitter penciled in. They value versatility on their Major League roster and adding McCutchen’s pop would give them another option at DH.
What McCutchen can’t provide that Cruz can is 40 homers. What he can provide that Cruz can’t is versatility. He can provide solid defense in the outfield and speed on the bases. While his speed may not be what it once was, he still stole 14 bases in 2018. Only Joey Wendle and Mallex Smith stole more bases for the Rays last year.
Back to the DH point…with the addition of McCutchen, the Rays would then have a number of daily options at DH:
- Brandon Lowe
- Daniel Robertson
- Ji-Man Choi
The addition of McCutchen further adds to their already impressive depth and versatility.
Is this a real possibility…?
I would like to think that the Rays would be interested in the 32-year-old All-Star outfielder. McCutchen, who grew up just over an hour away from Tropicana Field, may be inclined to return home.
He is coming off the worst year of his career at the plate, where he still hit .255 with 20 homers. It should be noted though, that the centerfielder did spend a majority of the season in the spacious AT&T Park in San Francisco where he saw an uptick in doubles compared to homers. He still finished with an OPS+ of 118.
A signing like this would fit the bill for the Rays as they have always looked to sign players coming off bad seasons. This may seem like a downgrade from C.J. Cron, who hit 30 bombs and had an OPS+ of 123. But, if the Rays do add McCutchen, there is still the possibility they look to add Jose Abreu or Paul Goldschmidt via trade.
Don’t forget, they already added Zunino who will help offset the burden of Cron’s void. Add 20 more bombs from McCutchen and the void is filled.
The center fielder would bring a veteran presence to a very young clubhouse. They may be able to get him for a couple of years at about 10-12 million a year. If his asking price greatly exceeds this, Tampa Bay may have to look at other options.
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It is an intriguing idea that my come to fruition. If it does, McCutchen would be a welcome addition to a 2019 Rays roster looking to reach the playoffs.