NEW YORK – With shoulder-length dreadlocks and a well-crafted beard, Andrew McCutchen spent his 20s forcing the baseball spotlight to shine bright on small-market Pittsburgh.
Now, a clean-cut McCutchen is coming cross-country to one of the sport’s grandest stages.
“Just gonna take me a sec to get used to my freshly shaved face,” he joked on Twitter.
The playoff-contending New York Yankees acquired the former NL MVP from the San Francisco Giants on Friday for two prospects. The teams announced the deal on the last day for trades to be done for players to be eligible for the postseason. McCutchen is expected to arrive in time to debut Saturday against Detroit, when he’ll play right field, filling in for the injured Aaron Judge.
“We’re getting a really good player,” manager Aaron Boone said, adding that “I think his reputation precedes him. This is as high a character person as we have in our game and I know he’ll fit well in our room.”
McCutchen already knows one of his new teammates well – Neil Walker, who played with the then-long-haired McCutchen in the minor leagues, then joined him in helping the Pirates end a 20-year playoff drought in 2013. McCutchen won that season’s NL MVP Award.
“I saw him for the three years that we made September, postseason pushes, elevate his game to the next level,” Walker said. “Not that he needed to do that, but you saw him be the player that he’s capable of being when the spotlight’s on him. That’s fully what I expect when he steps in here.”
Walker and McCutchen spoke Friday morning. McCutchen’s dreadlocks have been gone for a few years, but he was concerned about the beard he’s worn for nearly his entire 10-year career. The Yankees have a longstanding policy banning facial hair.
“I told him he needed to shave his face,” Walker said. “He wasn’t super happy about that.
“But he’s really excited, I’ll tell you that. He’s a guy that more than anything wants to win.”
The 31-year-old McCutchen is hitting .255 with 15 home runs, 55 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. His .357 on-base percentage trails only that of Judge (.398) and Aaron Hicks (.365) among qualified Yankees. He was a five-time All-Star with Pittsburgh.
McCutchen has been the Giants’ regular right fielder since being acquired from Pittsburgh last offseason. He will fill that spot for the Yankees, who have been without Judge since his wrist was broken by a pitch in late July. New York originally thought Judge could return within three weeks, but five weeks later, he’s yet to even grip a bat in a frustratingly slow recovery.
“This is something that really helps us here and now,” Boone said. “And even when Aaron comes back, it’s another really good player to give us options to match up things how we want to. It’s just another really good player in the fold, but we believe Aaron will absolutely be back.”
New York had the second-best record in the majors and was 8 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston going into a game Friday night against Detroit. The Yankees expect to activate injured catcher Gary Sanchez (groin) on Saturday and could also get shortstop Didi Gregorius (heel bruise) off the disabled list this weekend.
San Francisco is getting infielder Abiatal Avelino and right-hander Juan De Paula and is also sending cash to New York. The Giants also agreed to send the Yankees $1.2 million to cover just less than half of the more than $2.45 million remaining on McCutchen’s $14.75 million salary. McCutchen can file for free agency after the season.
McCutchen thanked Giants fans on Twitter “for the love and support you gave not only to me, but my family as well.”
“Now, I’m ready to throw the pinstripes on and get to work. @Yankees let’s go!” he added.
Giants executive VP of baseball operations Brian Sabean was sad to deal McCutchen, but the Giants are 7 1/2 games behind Arizona for the NL West.
“I hope he wins a ring,” Sabean said of McCutchen. “He’s invested a lot in the game, he’s the real deal. We need more McCutchens in the game.”
Sabean said San Francisco would consider signing McCutchen as a free agent this offseason.
The 23-year-old Avelino was hitting a combined .287 with 15 homers, 66 RBIs and 25 steals at Triple-A and Double-A. He was ranked the Yankees’ 23rd-best prospect by MLB.com.
De Paula is a 20-year-old starter who has pitched well with short-season Staten Island, going 2-2 with a 1.71 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. He’s ranked as New York’s 26th-best prospect on MLB.com.
Slugging prospect Chris Shaw was called up from Triple-A Sacramento to fill McCutchen’s spot.
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