Andrew McCutchen will play in left or right field for the Giants in 2018. While he will always presumably be one injury away from center field, Buster Olney reports that he was not acquired to be there full time. (Update: He’ll be in right field, with Hunter Pence moving to left.)
This is, of course, amazing and necessary news. A headline from November:
The Giants are reportedly interested in Andrew McCutchen, and they should be
As long as they aren’t planning to play him in center field, that is.
That’s it, that’s the entire article. Don’t waste your time by reading it. I told you everything that’s in there. Yes, McCutchen can improve the Giants’ lineup. No, he shouldn’t play center field in one of the largest outfields in baseball. It was simple, so very simple, except I didn’t think the Giants would think like this. Mercifully, they are, and now we get to wonder if McCutchen is going to be the plus defensive corner outfielder that Angel Pagan was supposed to be (but really, really, really wasn’t.)
We have confirmation and early clarification, which is great. The Giants really didn’t want McCutchen twisting in the wind until March, when they signed Cameron Maybin on a bargain deal to be Steven Duggar’s platoon-mate in center. This is best for everyone involved. The expectations are clear, and there isn’t a weird surprise to start his Giants career.
Now we get to the part where the Giants have about $4 million or $5 million to spend and need a center fielder. There will be rumors.
Sources say the #SFGiants rank the non-Lorenzo Cain free agent CF options as: 1) Jarrod Dyson; 2) Jon Jay; 3) Cameron Maybin. Dyson is valued for speed, defensive metrics and SB ability. Giants have expressed interest, but Dyson still talking to multiple clubs. Nothing imminent.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 16, 2018
I love the symmetry of the first two options. Dyson is known by Giants fans because he had the superhuman ability to catch anything that was hit in the 2014 World Series. It’s a miracle that he didn’t catch Michael Morse’s Series-winning hit in Game 7, even though he was on the bench at the time. There was nothing more frustrating than the camera cutting away from the hitter to reveal either Dyson or Lorenzo Cain running toward a ball they were obviously going to catch, even if they had no business doing so.
Jon Jay might be known by Giants fans, but only because he had troubles catching baseballs in the 2014 NLCS.
Or, perhaps, from his troubles catching baseballs in the 2012 NLCS:
I’ve watched Jay a lot over the last few years because of the Cardinals’ frequent appearances in the postseason and his time with the Padres, and I can say without equivocation that he would not be a defensive asset in AT&T Park. He can hit a little. He has value. He should not be the starting center fielder for the Giants in 2018.
The third option listed by Crasnick certainly makes a little sense, and we’re just a year removed from Cameron Maybin having an exceptionally strong season for the Tigers. I’m not entirely sold on his defense, even if he would be a good complement on the roster for Steven Duggar. For what it’s worth, Steamer projects him to be worth a half-win over 347 plate appearances next year, and it projects Gorkys Hernandez to be worth ... a half-win over 348 plate appearances next year. Save the money, in other words.
There’s still no indication that the Giants are interested in Austin Jackson, which is still a move that makes sense to me. It’s less urgent to get a right-handed outfielder now that McCutchen and Evan Longoria are in the lineup, but that deal would still help balance the roster if Duggar were ready ahead of schedule, and Jackson actually hit a bunch last year.
Still, if the above rumor is to be believed, Dyson is the Giants’ preferred target, and he should be. He’s speedy, and he’s an elite defensive center fielder, even if he’s on the older side and his utter lack of power isn’t ideal. I would absolutely love to see Dyson tracking balls down in Triples Alley, and it’s a surprise the Giants haven’t invested in someone like him already.
The most important news is that the Giants view Andrew McCutchen as a corner outfielder, which is absolutely the right decision. All that’s left is for them to find a center fielder who can catch, and they’ll have had a mighty creative offseason. Christian Arroyo and Bryan Reynolds might play in the 2020 All-Star Game, sure, but the Giants had limited resources and a desire to build a better lineup and defense. Somehow, they’ve done both, and they can still get a little better.