The Philadelphia Phillies acquired shortstop Jean Segura from Seattle last week to kick-start a transformative winter, and they reportedly entered the Make it Rain portion of their offseason on Tuesday, signing veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a three-year, $50-million deal that includes a club option for the 2022 campaign.
These days, it's practically heresy when an aspiring contender just goes out and spends money to address an area of need. But that's precisely what the Phillies did here, locking up a five-time All-Star - who's still good, at worst, in every facet of the game - by simply paying him a fair market salary. It really isn't more complicated than that. They spent money to improve their roster because the Phillies think they can win now. (And they're not done shopping, either.)
McCutchen isn't the perennial MVP candidate he was during his halcyon days in Pittsburgh, but the 32-year-old is still a comfortably above-average corner outfielder with tremendous on-base skills, solid power and speed, and virtually unparalleled durability. He's played more games than anyone since 2010, and has appeared in fewer than 153 contests in a season just once during that time. McCutchen also mashes left-handed pitching - the Phillies were the seventh-worst team against southpaws in 2018 - and he can play center field in a pinch.
Last year, in 155 games split between the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees, McCutchen - who transitioned to right field during spring training after spending virtually his entire career in center - hit .255/.368/.424 (120 wRC+) with 20 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and, thanks to the position change, positive defensive runs saved (2.0) for the first time since 2013. Ultimately, McCutchen was worth 2.6 WAR - more valuable than Odubel Herrera, who's poised to reprise his role as the Phillies' everyday center fielder in 2019, and Nick Williams, who's tentatively slated to play right field this season.
And if McCutchen sustains the gains he made down the stretch in 2018, following his trade to New York, he may become one of the best acquisitions of the offseason. Bumped into the leadoff spot with the Yankees after spending the bulk of 2018 hitting third in the Giants' batting order, McCutchen became more selective, trimming his swing rate down by more than three percent. The results were staggering:
|Date||Swing %||OPS||xwOBA||Avg. exit velocity (MPH)|
|March 29 - Aug. 31||39.8||.772||.346||89.8|
|Sept. 1 - Sept. 30||36.5||.892||.406||91.2|
Even if he merely replicates his cumulative numbers from last season, though, McCutchen (along with Segura) will significantly improve a Phillies lineup that finished in the National League's bottom-six in runs per game (4.18), wRC+ (91), expected weighted on-base average (.300), and on-base percentage (.314).
Suddenly, thanks to a front office as tenacious as any so far this offseason (save for maybe the Mariners'), the Phillies' lineup is looking pretty decent, and their bullpen also improved following the Segura deal.
Philadelphia still has ample financial wiggle room to accommodate a superstar-level addition like Bryce Harper, who would simply displace Williams in right field. Including McCutchen's presumed $15 million salary for 2019, the Phillies have only $125 million committed to their payroll, leaving general manager Matt Klentak oodles of his boss' cash to play with (along with a trove of valuable trade chips). The Phillies' brass pledged to spend "stupid" money this winter, after all.
Signing a player as respected and talented as McCutchen to a deal like this, though, could never qualify as stupid.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.