Robert Mayer

Is Andrew McCutchen a good fit for the Cleveland Indians?

The IBI's Drew Zubin thinks now is the time more than ever for the Indians to go all in. Could Pirates star outfielder Andrew McCutchen be what they're looking for?

The Indians are coming off an outstanding season that ended with them coming up one game short of their ultimate goal. The momentum and fan support haven’t been this high in years, which is a big reason why I believe the Indians need continue that momentum and make a big splash this offseason.

With their run all the way to the World Series this past season it has built up a plethora of goodwill with the fan base. Adding a big time piece to this team would continue to grab the attention of the casual Indians fan. Those are the people that the Indians are trying to get to come back to the ballpark on a regular basis.

There will always be a core fan base that will stick with the team no matter what. You can look at the teams of the past down by the lake to see how loyal this city can be to its teams. What the Indians need is the casual fan. I believe the playoffs were a huge leap forward in accomplishing that as the enthusiasm in the city and through the fan base was amazing during their run. The fuse has been lit and the Indians are trying to fan that into a fire.

Another reason to spend on this team is to show the coaches and players that ownership is all in with them. Players already have a supreme belief in themselves - you don’t become a professional athlete without it - but it never hurts to get a show of confidence from ownership. You could sense at the trade deadline when the Indians added Andrew Miller the team just got a burst of energy that pushed them through the playoffs.

One of the biggest needs for the Indians this offseason is an everyday center fielder and a bat that can help offset the loss of Mike Napoli. Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchon may fit both of those needs.

Adding a player like McCutchen, a former MVP who may be on the trade block, would give that same spark to push them through the offseason and hopefully off to a fast start to begin the season. I’m sure they already can’t wait to get to spring training, but this would want them to make it start yesterday.

Aside from a little tinkering in the pen and maybe finding another dependable late inning arm, the Indians addressed their pitching staff with the acquisition of Andrew Miller and when healthy the staff is arguably the best in the league. Now it’s time for them to make an impactful move for the offense and the best place to make that impact would be in the outfield.

One could say the return of Michael Brantley next season would be that big impact needed for the lineup. But while getting Brantley back will be nice, it’s hard to know what you are going to get from him after basically missing the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury and several setbacks and false starts in his return. The fact that he wasn’t able to make it back scares me a little. As of right now, he’s a question mark for next season and would be a bonus if he returns to full form.

I don’t love the platoons in center field or right field. One is fine but two makes it tough to have much consistency in the field and lineup. This is where I would start the discussion for upgrades to the offense.

McCutchen, fits the bill for the Indians. He is only 30-years old and under control through the 2018 season, so he wouldn’t be a short term rental. He’s owed $14 million in 2017 and has a club option for $14.5 million in 2018. So, yes, he is expensive, but the dollar figure is actually below market value for a player of his caliber. He would shore up center field in the short term and it lets the Indians sort through long term options like Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen and not have to prematurely add them to the roster.

Prior to last season, McCutchen had been an All-Star in five straight seasons for the Pirates hitting over 20 homers and driving in at least 79 runs in each of the last six seasons. To take it a step further and looking at it from an analytics standpoint, before last season McCutchen hadn’t had a WAR below 4.9 since 2010. Defensively, he’s an average centerfielder. He won’t hurt you in the field, but he isn’t a huge difference maker out there. Where he can make a difference is with the bat as he combines the ability to hit for average with a patient approach, limits strikeouts, has some power to drive the gaps, is a good baserunner and brings a lot of intangibles with his ability to come through in the clutch and leadership skills.

As to what it might take to acquire McCutchen, a possible deal would probably be similar to what the Indians offered for Jonathan Lucroy. McCutchen probably wouldn't command three top prospects because he is coming off a down year whereas Lucroy was having a great season, but McCutchen would also be bringing two full years of control whereas Lucroy only brought one and a third seasons of control. If the Indians feel McCutchen is the right fit for them, then they should have no worries about parting with two or three top prospects - something they were prepared to do with Lucroy before that deal fell through at the last minute.

To me, McCutchen is the perfect fit for the Indians and would make the most sense of all the options available in free agency and on the trade front. Here’s to hoping the Indians make a move for him to continue their push into 2017 and for that first World Series championship in 69 years.


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