As one would expect, the move from center field to right field produces the biggest gain in Runs Saved, and so McCutchen should expect a significant improvement to his DRS total at his new position. However, based on previous examples, left fielders who have moved to center field have lost more runs per 100 opportunities than center fielders who moved to right field have gained, -3.8 to +3.2. Given that the move from right field to left field has been close to neutral (+0.3), does that mean the Pirates might actually make things worse with their realignment?
The answer is no. Even with the expected decline for Marte and expected gain for McCutchen, they are projected to remain above and below average defenders, respectively. Meanwhile, the new alignment should mean their above average fielder, Marte, has more opportunities to make plays while their below average fielder, McCutchen, has fewer opportunities.
In 2016, an average outfield saw 530 opportunities in center field compared to just 448 in right field and 410 in left field. If you pro-rate Marte’s, McCutchen’s, and Polanco’s DRS totals out as if they had all played full, healthy seasons, you’d end up with a net of 6 DRS.