A busy December saw the free agent closet largely emptied. Still, as we begin 2023, there are still some great options on the open market for teams looking for upgrades ahead of the new season. Of course, many teams will be looking to the commercial market over the next two months – especially if they’re looking for impact options – but great deals can still be found in free agency.
One of those players is a former MVP, who remains a threat at home plate and is considered a veteran present in the clubhouse. Andrew McCutchen He might not be the same player who made five straight All Stars appearances for the Pirates, but he could still help a lot of teams. There was a report in early December that the Rays and Dodgers were interested in McCutchen, but it’s been quiet since. The Dodgers have since signed JD Martinezwhich may rule them out, but the Rays could still have a spot for him.
McCutchen, 36, spent last season with the Brewers on a one-year, $8 million contract. They had signed him after three years in Philadelphia, which culminated when McCutchen hit .222/.334/.444 with 27 home runs in 574 plate appearances. It’s been a pretty solid season, but what may have caught Milwaukee’s attention was how McCutchen torched left-handed pitching in 2021, slashing .293 / .405 / .622 in 195 plate appearances against lefties . This has been especially pronounced in 2021, but McCutchen’s splits have favored strikes against southpaws over the course of his career.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, that wasn’t the case in 2022. McCutchen would only hit .221/.303/.435 against lefties in Milwaukee, contributing to a .237/.316/.384 overall line. of 580 plate appearances. Although his walk and strikeout rates have been trending in the wrong direction lately, they were still reasonable ratings, as he struck out 21.4% of the time compared to a 9.8% walk rate. It was good for a wRC+ of 98, a few ticks below the league average, but the first time he had fallen below 100 in his career. He took advantage of a 262-plate appearance tear in midsummer, where he smashed 11 home runs and hit .868 OPS. Of course, the fact that his overall season rating was much lower than that suggests there were some very lean runs there as well.
Perhaps McCutchen’s biggest concern of the season was the drop in power. He hit 27 home runs a year ago with the Phillies, but only hit 17 last season. American Family Field in Milwaukee is generally less friendly to home run hitters than Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, but it was still a significant drop in long balls. In McCutchen’s defense, his exit speed and HardHit% were about the same as a year earlier, so he still has plenty of solid contacts.
On the defensive side of things, McCutchen has spent most of his time in DH for the past few years but can still play outfield and has had some success there in 2022. He was worth 5 recorded defensive runs in a small sample. of 268 1/3 innings, while he also spent some time right and center. He’s made 82 appearances in the DH spot and his days as an everyday outfielder are probably over, but he’s by no means a liability on the field and his numbers in 2022 could encourage a new team to give him a more heavy workload in the field. in 2023.
McCutchen will likely sign another one-year contract, most likely in the same range as the $8 million salary he earned in 2022. At this point in free agency, most available players have a few flaws , but McCutchen could still work as a solid option for a number of teams. He still has about 20 home runs, walks a little above the league average rate and doesn’t hit too often. While he’s not likely to be a team’s everyday outfielder, he could move around the corners of the outfield, make DH appearances, and allow teams to regularly spell out their starting outfielders. . Moreover, McCutchen has a good reputation at the club and could possibly work in a side competing with a slightly younger roster. While he’s unlikely to make a difference at this point, teams could do worse than bring in the veteran to deepen their roster for the upcoming season.