McCutchen could become latest to be dealt soon after winning the award
By Andrew Simon
Trade rumors swirling around Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen appear to be heating up, with the 2016 Winter Meetings set for next week.
Back in 2013, McCutchen won the National League MVP Award when he led the Pirates to their first postseason appearance since 1992. He followed that up with two more highly productive All-Star seasons, finishing third and fifth in the MVP voting as the Bucs made two more trips to the NL Wild Card Game.
But McCutchen's numbers declined across the board in 2016, he turned 30 after the season and his contract has only one more guaranteed year (plus a team option for '18). Moving their popular star player would be a difficult pill to swallow for the small-market Pirates -- but also a chance to add young talent before McCutchen potentially leaves as a free agent.
If Pittsburgh does take the plunge on such a deal, it certainly wouldn't be the first team to trade a recent MVP winner, though few have done so of late. Here are 10 notable examples, each of whom went no more than four seasons between winning the award and packing his bags.
Alex Rodriguez American League MVP in 2003 for Rangers Traded to Yankees on Feb. 16, 2004 Why the trade happened: Three years after signing Rodriguez to a record-smashing 10-year, $252 million contract, the Rangers got salary relief at the expense of a player who already had produced 25.5 wins above replacement (WAR) for them and was still only 28. The biggest piece they got in return, Alfonso Soriano, provided two good but unspectacular seasons before he was dealt to Washington. After the trade: Before opting out of his contract and re-signing with the Yankees at the end of 2007, A-Rod won two more MVP Awards and twice led the AL in homers and OPS.
Ken Griffey Jr. AL MVP in 1997 for Mariners Traded to Reds on Feb. 10, 2000 Why the trade happened: Seattle was in a tough spot, as Griffey had requested a trade and had just one season left on his contract. Still, the club did well with a four-player package highlighted by fellow center fielder Mike Cameron, whose 18.3 WAR over four years with the Mariners more than doubled Griffey's output during the same stretch. After the trade: Griffey, who signed a new deal after the trade, was terrific in 2000 but averaged only 79 games over the following four seasons as injuries plagued him. Cincinnati never made the postseason in his nine years there.
Rickey Henderson AL MVP in 1990 for A's Traded to Blue Jays on July 31, 1993 Why the trade happened: A pending free agent on an Oakland club headed for 94 losses, Henderson was moved at the Trade Deadline. The A's got a pair of prospects, including 21-year-old right-hander Steve Karsay, a first-round pick who went on to make 36 starts for the club over the next four years. After the trade: The 34-year-old Henderson was having a huge year in Oakland but struggled in Toronto, aside from stealing 22 bases. Still, the Jays won the World Series -- with Henderson on base for Joe Carter's walk-off homer -- before Henderson re-signed with the A's as a free agent.
Kevin Mitchell NL MVP in 1989 for Giants Traded to Mariners on Dec. 11, 1991 Why the trade happened: In exchange for Mitchell and pitcher Mike Remlinger, the Giants got three pitchers. The haul included a solid reliever (Michael Jackson) and a starter (Bill Swift) who led the NL with a 2.08 ERA in 1992 and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting the next year. After the trade: Injuries limited Mitchell to 99 games and nine homers in 1992 before the Mariners traded him again, with two years left on his contract. Their return, reliever Norm Charlton, enjoyed a strong '93 campaign before reaching free agency.
Jose Canseco AL MVP in 1988 for A's Traded to Rangers on Aug. 31, 1992 Why the trade happened: The first-place A's wanted to save money and bolster their pitching staff when they dealt Canseco, a big piece of their lineup who was signed through 1995. All three players who came to Oakland (reliever Jeff Russell, starter Bobby Witt, outfielder Ruben Sierra) contributed down the stretch for a club that went on to lose in the AL Championship Series, but none made a big long-term impact. After the trade: Canseco played 193 games for Texas before he was traded to the Red Sox after the 1994 season, providing 45 homers, 3.7 WAR and one of the most memorable bloopers of all time.
Keith Hernandez NL MVP in 1979 for Cardinals Traded to Mets on June 15, 1983 Why the trade happened: Less than a year after Hernandez helped them to a championship, the Cardinals shipped him to the lowly Mets, apparently due to off-field issues and clashes with manager Whitey Herzog. Pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey didn't provide much in return, although St. Louis was back in the World Series by 1985. After the trade: Landing Hernandez was an enormous boon to the Mets. From 1984-88, he made three All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove Award each year, batted over .300 and brought a championship in '86.
Rod Carew AL MVP in 1977 for Twins Traded to Angels on Feb. 3, 1979 Why the trade happened: In 1978, Carew hit .333 to win his seventh batting title in 10 years, but the Twins finished third or lower in the AL West for the eighth straight season. With one year left before Carew would reach free agency, Minnesota exchanged him for four players (Dave Engle, Paul Hartzell, Brad Havens and Ken Landreaux), none of whom produced as much as 4.0 WAR for the club. After the trade: Though he wasn't quite the same player in Anaheim, Carew still batted .324 with a 126 OPS+ over his first five seasons there, as the Halos twice made the postseason. Carew finished his career with the club in 1985, when he notched his 3,000th hit -- against the Twins.
Reggie Jackson AL MVP in 1973 for A's Traded to Orioles on April 2, 1976 Why the trade happened: The A's knew that Jackson, coming off his second home run title in three years, would test free agency after the 1976 campaign. So just before it began, they dealt him and pitcher Ken Holtzman for three players (Don Baylor, Paul Mitchell and Mike Torrez), none of whom remained with the club beyond '77. However, Torrez did have a strong '76, posting a 2.50 ERA over 39 starts. After the trade: Jackson did indeed give free agency a shot and signed with the Yankees, although in his one season in Baltimore, he led the AL in slugging (.502) and OPS+ (155) for an 88-win team that finished in second place.
Orlando Cepeda NL MVP in 1967 for Cardinals Traded to Braves on March 17, 1969 Why the trade happened: Cepeda's numbers plummeted in 1968, and St. Louis swapped him for Joe Torre, who proceeded to put together six good seasons there (22.4 WAR). Coincidentally, Torre took NL MVP honors in '71, three years before he also was traded, to the Mets. After the trade: The Braves got two good years from Cepeda, in which he hit 56 homers with 199 RBIs and a 123 OPS+. But a knee injury struck in 1971, and a year later, Cepeda was traded to Oakland.
Frank Robinson NL MVP in 1961 for Reds Traded to Orioles on Dec. 9, 1965 Why the trade happened: Robinson's performance from 1963-65, while still quite good, was a step down from '60-'62, when he led the NL in OPS+ all three years (169 overall). Believing that the 30-year-old was declining, Cincinnati traded him for three players. The highlight was pitcher Milt Pappas, who started 64 games with a 101 ERA+ in the next two seasons. After the trade: Robinson was far from over the hill. He won the Triple Crown in 1966 (.316, 49 homers, 122 RBIs) and became the first player to be named MVP in both leagues. While the Reds were under .500, the Orioles won their first World Series, and Robinson was named MVP of that as well. After five more strong seasons in Baltimore, he was traded to the Dodgers.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.