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Cutch deal has Giants primed for turnaround

Led by Posey, Bumgarner and newly acquired Longoria, club eyes return to prominence
MLB.com @RichardJustice

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said recently that his team's 2018 turnaround would begin with being embarrassed about last season.

"I know our guys," he said. "I know that's going to be the case. They're going to use what happened as motivation."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said recently that his team's 2018 turnaround would begin with being embarrassed about last season.

"I know our guys," he said. "I know that's going to be the case. They're going to use what happened as motivation."

Not just losing 98 games, but finishing last in the National League West and watching three division rivals -- the Dodgers, Rockies and D-backs -- make the postseason.

This happens with competitive people all the time. In fact, that's the thing that separates special players from the others. In Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have two of the really, really special ones, a pair of future Hall of Famers who've won three World Series championships and believe they're capable of more.

Video: Rosenthal discusses Giants' trade for McCutchen

That's a big part of why the Giants were poised for a bounce-back season even before making the second of two huge trades: Acquiring outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates on Monday after getting third baseman Evan Longoria from the Rays in December.

In Giant need of offense, SF trades for Cutch

McCutchen and Longoria have this in common: Both were iconic players with their previous teams. They made a huge impact on the field in helping their clubs become competitive and made equally large contributions in the community.

When you're a future Hall of Fame manager like Bochy, you define players by their attitude, professionalism and work ethic, in addition to their production. There tends to be a correlation with this stuff.

McCutchen and Longoria know enough about AT&T Park to appreciate the unique environment: Every seat filled, crowds rowdy. In San Francisco, winning the World Series is not a wild dream. It's what the Giants did in 2010, '12 and '14, and it's what they believe they can do again.

If you wondered if the Giants would retreat a couple of steps and attempt a rebuild this offseason, that was never a consideration. They intended to aggressively pursue upgrades at third base and in the outfield and give it another try. Don't discount them making a move for a defense-first center fielder. Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton is one option via trade. Free agents Jarrod Dyson and Carlos Gonzalez are two more possibilities.

If you'd like to have a conversation about what kind of players Longoria and McCutchen are at this point, that's fair. Longoria is 32, McCutchen 31. Longoria is coming off a season in which he had a .737 OPS and 58 extra-base hits while winning his third Rawlings Gold Glove Award. McCutchen had an .849 OPS with 28 home runs and 11 steals.

McCutchen's new teammates very excited

Here's betting both benefit from a change of scenery and that they buy into a Spring Training in which a lot of players -- and a franchise -- have plenty to prove.

Here's why the Giants were already going to be better:

• Bumgarner is healthy after missing three months with a shoulder injury last season. His competitive fires may burn hotter than any player other than Posey's.

• Right-hander Johnny Cueto's 2017 season was a nightmare, beginning with his father's illness during Spring Training and continuing with a season in which his 4.52 ERA barely resembled his 2.73 mark in the previous nine seasons.

Video: MLB Tonight: Giants trade for McCutchen

• The Giants expect right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Brandon Belt and reliever Mark Melancon to be better -- and healthier -- than they were in 2017. This is a huge amount of talent capable of dramatically altering the franchise's direction in '18.

This is the core of players that has set a standard for excellence the last decade, and to add two more consummate pros only enhances the possibilities for a surprise season.

For McCutchen, this trade begins a new chapter in his life. In Pittsburgh, his legacy is secure. His arrival in 2009 brought with it a sense of optimism for a franchise that hadn't been to the potseason since 1992. His decision to sign an extension -- that is, to buy into what the team's new ownership and management were building -- offered even more.

And he delivered. That's the thing to remember. The Pirates did not win a championship during McCutchen's nine seasons, but they were in the mix. They filled up PNC Park. They had people talking Pirates baseball. And as general manager Neal Huntington acquired more and more talent, McCutchen remained the centerpiece.

GIFs of McCutchen's best plays

Between 2013-15, the Pirates won the second-most regular-season games in the Majors (280), seven fewer than the Cardinals. They made three straight postseason appearances, once losing Game 5 of an NL Division Series to Adam Wainwright and the Cards and twice losing NL Wild Card Games to Jake Arrieta and Bumgarner.

Video: Giants trade prospects to Pirates for McCutchen

Those losses are a reminder of how unforgiving postseason baseball can be. In those three seasons, McCutchen hit .308 with 69 home runs and 263 RBIs. HIs .917 OPS was the sixth-best in baseball in that span.

During these three seasons, McCutchen made three straight All-Star appearances and finished third, first and third in NL MVP Award voting. More than what numbers can measure was the way McCutchen played.

His energy and speed were a thing to behold, and when he was rolling, so were the Pirates. While McCutchen helped elevate the Pirates to another place in the hearts and minds of baseball fans around the country, Pittsburgh's success allowed people to see just how good this guy was.

Now, he gets to show a bunch of new folks.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

San Francisco Giants, Andrew McCutchen