After three consecutive seasons of early postseason exits followed by a missed postseason in 2016, it appears that the Pittsburgh Pirates are ready to turn the page on one of the more successful periods in franchise history.
For nearly the past decade, Andrew McCutchen has widely been considered the face of the Pirates franchise. However, we now stand here today, and reports suggest that the likelihood of Cutch opening the season as a member of the Pirates organization are dwindling. In fact, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the chances of a McCutchen trade are looking “increasing likely.”
An Andrew McCutchen trade looks increasingly likely. Story:… https://t.co/SICFlFhcV2
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 30, 2016
This report doesn’t come as much of a shock, given that McCutchen’s name was frequently mentioned during the lead-up to the trade deadline back in late July. While nothing came of trade talks during the summer, it’s expected that he’ll be shipped out of town this winter.
The former National League MVP winner has been with Pittsburgh since being drafted in 2005 and has manned center field in the majors since 2009. A career .292 hitter, the 30-year-old has compiled at least 20 home runs in each season dating back to 2011. Following a three-year span that saw McCutchen hit over .300, the past two seasons have seen his average drop to .292 in 2015 and a somewhat surprising .256 this past season. Despite his recent struggles, McCutchen is still an attractive piece. The right-handed hitter comes with a guarantee of one season at $14 million for 2017 and a team option of $14.75 million for 2018.
Given Pittsburgh’s reputation as a relatively low-budget team, it doesn’t possess the luxury of keeping their best players long-term, as most times the player’s level of performance will drive him out of the team’s price range. In the case of McCutchen, it doesn’t come as much of a stunning development that the Pirates would give serious consideration to trading him, especially considering he is their highest-paid player. When that player happens to be universally recognized as a top-10 outfielder in baseball, it’s just an added incentive to at the very least, entertain offers on him. It doesn’t hurt when you’re also sitting on a consensus top-20 prospect such as Austin Meadows, as well as young studs like Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.
It’ll be interesting to see how this situation develops over the next few months before spring training, but it certainly sounds like McCutchen nearly has both feet out the door. In the coming weeks, we should start to get a better idea on which teams plan to pursue the multi-time All-Star. For now, though, we can only sit here and toss around speculative ideas within our heads.