In years past, when you heard. “Pittsburgh Pirates”, you instantly thought of dreadlocks flowing out the back of a batting helmet as they went across the back of a yellow and black uniform. Now, that image is gone. Andrew McCutchen 1. cut his hair and 2. may be out of a Pirates uniform in the near future.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Pirates were and continue to ramp up talks to try and trade former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen and, according to Bleacher Report, a deal could get done as soon as today. The Washington Nationals seem like the most likely suitor at this point.
McCutchen had by far the worst year of his career in 2016 for the Pirates. Batting .256 with a .336 OBP while playing a terrible center field. It would be a shame for the face of a franchise to leave town but, the Pirates seem to making the right call.
For a small market team like Pittsburgh, McCutchen’s $14 million a year contract handcuffs them financially. The Pirates would have to continue to stay as is during the free agency period, meaning they could not improve or rebuild. McCutchen’s numbers have also been on a steady decline the past few seasons. His average in 2013 was at .317 and dropped to .314 in 2014, .292 in 2015, and finally .256 in 2016. His WAR has also gone from 8.2, to 6.4, t0 4.8, and then this year he was a below replacement level player with a -0.7 WAR. The decline of McCutchen was one of the biggest surprises of the season but, based off of the numbers it maybe should not have been.
McCutchen is considered a “bounce back” candidate that can return to somewhat of his MVP form during the 2017 season. I highly doubt it will happen but, that is why teams are interested in his services. But McCutchen’s lack of fielding ability most likely force him to a corner outfield spot for the rest of his career.
McCutchen is not very old at 30 years old but, last year he played like it. For a team like the Pirates, they have the ammunition to replace McCutchen and they can not have his contract weigh down the team. Starling Marte, an All-Star left fielder, can slide right over to center. He is a natural center fielder and played most of his minor league career at that spot. Right fielder Gregory Polanco, a former top prospect, displayed the power that the Pirates had been hoping for this past season by hitting 22 bombs. The left field spot is the biggest question mark. The Pirates could just put McCutchen in left field but, it all comes down to money. They also have the number 9 prospect in all of baseball, Austin Meadows, who plays outfield.
It seems likelier and likelier every day that McCutchen’s tenure with the Bucco’s is over. My prediction is that he is traded within the next week to the Washington Nationals for pitching prospect A.J. Cole and outfield prospect Victor Robles. I do not think it is a smart move by the Nationals but, it would add depth and a veteran presence to their lineup.
Seeing McCutchen’s time with the Pirates ,most likely, coming to an end like this is really upsetting to see. He rejuvenated the once terrible Pirates and brought baseball back to Pittsburgh. For the MLB and the Pittsburgh Pirates, raising the Jolly Roger will not be the same without number 22 gracing the field of PNC Park.