After standing pat on the first full day of the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, the Phillies got in on the action by opening up their purse strings Tuesday, taking a gamble to address one of their top needs.
Less than 24 hours after general manager Matt Klentak said, per The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro, he thought the outfield was an area they could add, they did just that.
It’s not Bryce Harper, who still has yet to decide on a destination, but it doesn’t mean the Phillies won’t end up signing both outfielders. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, it doesn’t affect the Phillies’ pursuit for Harper. Although the signing does seem to take some pressure off the Phillies reaching a deal with Harper.
Still, it’s hard to argue against a starting outfield of McCutchen, Harper and Odubel Herrera with Nick Williams and Roman Quinn coming off the bench. Whether Harper comes to Philadelphia or not, McCutchen’s addition does give the Phillies the opportunity to shop Herrera and Williams. It also greatly improves an outfield in which Aaron Altherr and Jose Bautista combined for 98 games in 2018 with Rhys Hoksins playing away from his natural position of first base 135 times.
Not only does McCutchen fill a need on defense for the Phillies, he also satisfies the front office’s focus of improving at-bats and getting on base. McCutchen finished 20th in baseball last season with an on-base percentage of .368, boosted by his 95 walks, which was tied for eighth in the league with another Phillie, Cesar Hernandez.
The 32-year-old has played all three outfield positions throughout his career, but did not appear in center last year. Finishing the season with the Yankees, McCutchen played left and right, leading off in 21 of his 25 games in pinstripes. It’s a small sample size, but during his time in New York his on-base percentage skyrocketed. His OBP with the Bronx Bombers was .421. Had he maintained that over the course of a season, it would have been a career-best.
McCutchen, a five-time NL All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger and 2013 NL MVP, spent his first nine major league seasons with the Pirates before being traded to the Giants in January and then the Yankees at the waiver deadline on Aug. 31. He slashed .255/.368/.424 in 155 games last season with 20 home runs, 65 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
Even though it doesn’t appear the Phillies are completely out when it comes to Harper, McCutchen’s signing could be a sign that shows they continue to favor Manny Machado when it comes to the market’s top two free agents, something NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported Monday.
The only issue could be is if the New York Yankees get involved, a destination that is said to be high on Machado’s list. Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported in August that those close to Machado suggested New York could be his top choice and he would move from shortstop to play there. Rumors of a possible three-way trade involving the Yankees, combined with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Robert Murray reporting the Yankees are open to moving third baseman Miguel Andujar could send the Yankees all-in on Machado. They’re already expected to be without shortstop Didi Gregorius until mid-July while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Regardless of where Machado goes, Salisbury confirmed Tuesday that the 26-year-old star will visit Philadelphia to check out Citizens Bank Park on his free-agent tour. Heyman added that the Yankees and White Sox are two other known destinations on Machado’s tour.
McCutchen is the third player the Phillies have added this offseason. They have already acquired shortstop Jean Segura from the Mariners and lefty reliever Jose Alvarez from the Angels. Segura provides an upgrade on offense and defense at shortstop while Alvarez gives the Phillies another lefty option in the bullpen, but neither are one of the names Philadelphia fans ultimately want this winter.