The Pittsburgh Pirates have a history of bad trades in recent memory, sparking the agitation of fans and failing to pay off on the field.
Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole, Neil Walker, Francisco Liriano are just a few, but the Bucs also facilitated a more than quality return in their most polarizing move of the last decade.
Andrew McCutchen was and still is one of the most well-liked and well-respected Pirates of a lifetime for fans who never witnessed baseball before the 20-year losing streak, but began to decline in his later years as a Bucco.
Pittsburgh made the difficult decision to trade McCutchen prior to the 2018 season with one year remaining on his contract, acquiring two players from San Francisco including the Pirates' best player on their current roster.
McCutchen left the Steel City after nine seasons hitting 203 home runs, driving in 725 runs, and bating .291, while winning four Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, making five All-Star game appearances, and being crowned the 2013 NL MVP award.
The Bucs snagged reliever Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds off the Giants, sparking fan outrage, mostly due to McCutchen’s popularity, and underestimating the return.
Crick produced a few impactful seasons in a late-inning role before losing his control and being designated for assignment in July. His wipeout slider especially became loopy, missing the zone and moving controllably past the plate.
Despite this, the right-hander was a valuable piece from 2018-2020 totaling a 3.62 ERA and being trusted to put away hitters.
Reynolds was also not a household name or top prospect when acquired, but quickly proved his worth when called up in the early portion of 2019 in what was only to be a short stint.
Starling Marte and Erik Gonzalez collided in the outfield, forcing both players to hit the disabled list, forcing Reynolds into a starting position in left field.
The now 26-year-old lefty batter jumped out to a hot start and never looked back, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting thanks to 37 doubles, 16 home runs, 68 RBI, and a .314 batting average in 134 games.
Reynolds followed his rookie season up with a tough sophomore slump, albeit a 60-game COVID-shortened season, hitting .189 over 185 at-bats.
The tides turned in 2021, starting in the All-Star game, being nominated for a Gold Glove, and totaling a 6 WAR as the Pirates' most productive and valuable piece to the rebuilding puzzle.
McCutchen, meanwhile, spend the past three seasons in Philadelphia hitting only .237 with 47 homers and 143 RBI compared to Reynolds’ 47 home runs and 177 RBI with a .290 average, and Reynolds continues to improve and open eyes across baseball.
Reynolds is a core price for the Pirates moving alongside KeBryan Hayes in a rebuild looking to turn the corner in 2022.
Originally seen as only a negative, the McCutchen for Reynolds and Crick trade was a good one for the Pirates on the field, but still leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths off it.
Cutch was traded mid-season from San Francisco to the New York Yankees while Reynolds still has four years of club control and is drawing significant interest on the trade market, though the Pirates would be foolish to deal him and go against everything they’re currently trying to build.
Reynolds could be the main catalyst for the Pirates’ next contender while McCutchen still has success, but nearly to the same level both offensively and defensively.
It may be hard to admit it, but the McCutchen-Reynolds trade was a good one and sets the Pirates up with a similar recipe for success having one of the best outfielders in the game to break out of another rebuild.