San Francisco’s 2017 season was a disaster, as they went from being a playoff team in 2016 to one of the worst teams in baseball a year later. With a thin farm system, the Giants came into the offseason needing to either fill some dire needs or begin a significant rebuild.
The Giants are not starting over. Instead, they’ve worked to fix their most glaring holes, while also avoiding spending big in free agency. First, they traded away infielder Christian Arroyo, lefthander Matt Krook and righthander Stephen Woods to acquire third baseman Evan Longoria and now they have sent outfielder Bryan Reynolds and righthander Kyle Crick and $500,000 in international bonus allotment to the Pirates to bring Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco.
Giants third baseman and center fielders in 2017 were two of the least-productive positions in all of baseball. They’ve now filled the spots with two stars. Admittedly both are aging stars, but they won’t have to do much to best what Pablo Sandoval and Denard Span (who was also shipped to the Rays in the Longoria deal) produced in 2017. And San Francisco has done it while holding on to its top three prospects.
McCutchen is set to make $14.5 million in 2018 in the final year of his current deal before he hits free agency. Pittsburgh will pay $2.5 million of the contract according to Ken Rosenthal. The move caps a dramatic week for the Pirates, as the team has now traded its top starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole, and its face of the franchise, McCutchen, in the same week.
Giants Acquire: Andrew McCutchen, OF Age: 31
The trade of McCutchen truly ends an era in Pittsburgh. He is the most successful Pirates star since Barry Bonds, who coincidentally left in free agency to join the Giants in 1993. McCutchen, the 2013 MVP, made five straight all-star appearances from 2011-2015. He struggled offensively in 2016 but bounced back in 2017. Defensively, the now 31-year-old outfielder is not what he once was in center field, and the Pirates initially planned to slide him to a corner, but when Starling Marte was suspended, he ended up staying in center field full-time.
With only one year left on his deal, the Giants have no long-term commitment in McCutchen. The spacious outfield of AT&T Park requires outfielders who can cover ground. With no obvious answer in left field or center, McCutchen’s ultimate spot could depend on what else the Giants do this offseason.
Pirates Acquire: Bryan Reynolds, OF Age: 22
The Giants second-round pick in 2016, Reynolds, the No. 5 prospect in our 2018 Giants Top 10 Prospects rankings, has hit for average wherever he’s played. But scouts who have long wanted to see Reynolds hit for more power seem disappointed that he’s proving to be a high-average hitter with plenty of strikeouts and not much thump. The switch-hitter is a career .312 hitter (and hit .329 during his Vanderbilt career). With Starling Marte on hand (and Austin Meadows on the way), it’s likely Reynolds will end up in a corner outfield spot. He can play center field in a pinch, but he’s a potential above-average defender in the corners. Reynolds is very likely to be a big leaguer, but there is plenty of debate about how much impact he will have. If Reynolds adds more power, he could be a first-division regular, but his current approach makes him more of a second-division regular or an excellent part-time outfielder.
Kyle Crick, RHP Age: 25
Crick seemed destined to become yet another of the long list of flame-throwers whose wildness kept them from big league success. He walked more than a batter an inning in 2015, then posted a 5.04 ERA (and a similar 4.85 xFIP) in a return to Double-A Richmond in 2016. But the Giants’ second try at moving Crick to the bullpen worked much better than his first attempt. Crick’s control has improved from bottom-of-the-scale to below-average. That helped him get to the big leagues for the first time in 2017 and he was effective in 30 relief appearances. Crick’s 95-98 mph fastball can blow past hitters even when he falls behind in the count. His slider is a chase pitch, but has some effectiveness as well. The former starter still has a changeup he will spot against lefties. Crick’s stuff is that of a high-leverage reliever, but his control problems make him better suited to lower-leverage innings for now. His starter background makes him capable of handling multiple innings if needed. Crick ranked 18th on the Giants Top 30 Prospects rankings in the soon-to-be-released 2018 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
The Pirates also received $500,000 in international bonus space in the deal. They can spend that allotment over the next four and a half months of the current international signing period.