The Pirates are shaking things up in the outfield this season, according to a team announcement that was made on Sunday. With the new alignment, Andrew McCutchen will vacate center field to take over in right, Gregory Polanco will switch from right to left field, and Starling Marte will move from left to center field.
Marte alluded to the change on Saturday, telling MLB Dominicana that he had officially made the switch to center field for the 2017 season. Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle issued the following quote in response:
McCutchen, 30, saw a sharp decline in his defensive skills during the 2016 season, delivering a career-worst -28 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a -18.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) that contrasted negatively with the -8 DRS and -6.1 UZR he posted in 2015.
Polanco and Marte, meanwhile, produced more palatable numbers in 2016 despite suffering through multiple stints on the disabled list. Polanco posted two DRS and a 6.2 UZR from right field, while Marte earned Gold Glove honors in left field after turning in 17 DRS and a 6.2 UZR to complement an impressive offensive performance.
Craig Mish of SiriusXM reports that the Brewers have put together a trade offer for Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich. He describes the club’s interest in Yelich as “strong,” and notes that other teams remain in the mix.
Yelich’s relationship with the Marlins was recently described by his agent as “irretrievably broken” following the trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon. His agent said Yelich “needs to get on with his career where he’s got a chance to win.” Understandably, teams have been calling the Marlins asking about him.
The 26-year-old hit .282/.369/.439 with 18 home runs, 81 RBI, 100 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 695 plate appearances last season. He’s in the fourth year of a seven-year, $49.57 million contract of which $44.5 million remains. Given how slow the free agent market has been this offseason, it’s difficult to say exactly what he would get if he were to hit the open market, but it is safe to say that his current contract is very much a bargain for his team, which only makes him even more attractive to inquiring teams.
The Brewers are an interesting team to get involved in the Yelich sweepstakes. Their outfield already has three capable players in Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton. Yelich would still be an upgrade, but the Brewers’ resources may be better spent in other areas like the starting rotation.
Given Yelich’s displeasure and Jeter’s insistence on stripping the Marlins bare — including, potentially, the iconic home run sculpture — it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a trade happen.