Huard: Mariners’ reported interest in Andrew McCutchen is a good sign

Nov 21, 2016, 1:40 PM | Updated: 1:44 pm

The Mariners were just three wins away last season from their first postseason berth in 15 years, and it’s possible that one more big bat or arm would have put them over the top. And while general manager Jerry Dipoto has made just a few minor deals this offseason, he reportedly kicked the tires on at least one potential blockbuster.

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweeted Sunday that the Mariners inquired about former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen earlier this offseason but that talks didn’t advance. The Pirates center fielder is coming off the worst seasons of his career, posting a .256/.336/.430 slash-line, with 24 home runs, 79 RBI and a career-low six stolen bases, along with substandard fielding metrics. Still, the 30-year-old is only one year removed from four consecutive All-Star appearances.

The addition of McCutchen could have given Seattle a right-handed power bat alongside Nelson Cruz to mix in with lefties Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. His right-handed swing would also help in an outfield that leans heavily on lefties Seth Smith, Leonys Martin and Ben Gamel.

Whether McCutchen’s dip in production was an aberration or the start of a slide is somewhat inconsequential to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard, who said Monday that the Mariners’ interest in a big name can only be seen as good news.

“I hope everything is on the table,” Huard said. “They don’t have, I don’t think, a ton of money to spend. This is not a rich free-agent class with lots of difference makers. Andrew McCutchen, you would be getting a little bit low off of his career numbers. Last year he was way down. I don’t think it’s the end of Andrew McCutchen. I think it is very difficult predicting those things but I hope they are entertaining conversations (about White Sox All-Star pitcher) Chris Sale. … I hope they are entertaining conversations with proven difference makers in this league. That’s good news.”

Mike Salk agreed that the interest is a positive, but questions whether the Mariners are willing to part with the kind of talent needed to make such a trade. Salk said any deal for players the caliber of McCutchen or Sale will start with Seattle’s promising 24-year-old pitcher Taijuan Walker.

“In some cases, it might be straight up for Taijuan,” Salk said. “I think for Andrew McCutchen, though, you’re looking at a package that begins with Taijuan Walker. Is that a deal that you want them to make with McCutchen having two years under your control at $14.5 million before he moves on?”

Salk said Walker is by far the Mariners’ biggest trading chip for an organization with a relatively weak farm system and is “absolutely not” off the table, but that the team would also need to get back, at the very least, a No. 5 starter for the rotation.

“I don’t see the McCutchen deal happening,” Salk said. “I think it’s intriguing and obviously the Mariners are one of the teams that should line up for him, but for some reason the defense took a hit last year in addition to the offense. I just don’t see it happening.”

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