There was a time in recent Pittsburgh Pirates history when Pirates fans discussed trading Andrew McCutchen for prospects. It was prior to the 2012 season. A winning season was still a pipe dream at the time. McCutchen hadn’t been extended yet. He wasn’t even an MVP at the time — just a good, young player with a ton of upside. The thought was that the Pirates would miss their chance for an extension, would continue losing, and would be forced to trade McCutchen and get whatever they could, rather than watching him walk via free agency.
Then, a month before the season, they extended him. That season saw a breakout year, with a 6.8 WAR. The next season he became an MVP, and the Pirates made the playoffs. And now, three years later, the Pirates have made the playoffs two years in a row, are strong contenders to make it for a third year, and are considered a model franchise. Meanwhile, McCutchen is locked up through the 2018 season, and is one of the best players in baseball.
It made sense to call for an extension prior to the 2012 season, and it wasn’t totally unjustified to worry about McCutchen’s future with the team. The Pirates ended up getting one of the best values in sports with the extension, but that was because they made the deal at the right time. If they would have waited another year, they either would have had to pay a lot more, or might have missed out on an extension completely. If the latter would have happened, then McCutchen would be entering the 2015 season as a pending free agent, ready to get a record-setting deal next off-season.
That scenario I just laid out — the one that didn’t happen, thankfully — is the only scenario where it makes sense to discuss an Andrew McCutchen extension in 2015.
Rob Biertempfel wrote that the Pirates would consider a high salary to keep McCutchen, throwing out a $25 M a year figure. The only problem is that it is way too soon to be discussing this type of thing with McCutchen, as he still has four years of control remaining.
So much has changed in the last three years. We don’t know what things will look like three years from now. Will McCutchen still be performing like an MVP, or even like a star? Keep in mind that the extension would start in his age 32 season. Could the Pirates have better internal options, with someone like Austin Meadows, or maybe someone we aren’t even talking about. Three years ago, Gregory Polanco was just starting to show signs of breaking out, and Starling Marte was still in the minors.
None of this is saying McCutchen shouldn’t be extended. It’s just saying that it would be foolish to extend McCutchen early, when the Pirates have four years of control remaining, and when a lot can happen in those four years. If you’re paying top dollar, then you might as well wait and see if you need to pay that.
The only way it would make sense to discuss a McCutchen extension this soon, or even to extend him this soon, would be if he accepts an Evan Longoria-type discount. Longoria signed a six-year, $100 M deal at the end of the 2012 season. This was despite the fact that the Rays still had him under team control for the next four seasons. Longoria’s deal not only gave the Rays a discount, but allowed them to defer money — $11 M without interest from 2017-2022. Longoria has the chance to earn an additional $5 M in 2023, but that all depends on how he ranks in awards in 2022, which means he’d still have to be a good player to receive that boost. Once again, another benefit for the Rays.
It would be unreasonable to expect any player to take that type of deal. If McCutchen took that type of discounted deal, it would be a charity, and he would be deserving of a statue outside of PNC Park the day he signed the deal. He’d basically be passing up about $100 M in guaranteed dollars by giving the Pirates a comparable discount in today’s terms.
This type of deal is unlikely to happen, but it’s the only deal that makes sense discussing at this point. Otherwise, the topic of a McCutchen extension is best saved for a few years from now, when we actually know if McCutchen should be extended beyond his age 31 season, and when we actually know whether the Pirates need to bring him back at all.
**A quick count shows we have less than 120 hard copy books of the 2015 Prospect Guide from the most recent shipment. We’ve already sold more than last year’s total, and I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the hard copy version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Every day I upload content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the video features on YouTube. Be sure that you’re subscribed to all of those sites to follow everything we upload throughout Spring Training (there is different content for each social media site). Today’s uploads include video of Pedro Alvarez working at first base with Kevin Young, and pictures and video of Jeff Locke and A.J. Burnett throwing live batting practice.
**The Change That Will Help Tyler Glasnow Reach His Upside. You had to know it would only be a matter of time before I did a video feature on the top prospect in the system. Some good stuff about Glasnow’s development in the AFL this off-season.
**How Josh Bell’s Move To First Base Could Solve His Late-Season Drop In Power. Could offer an explanation as to why he saw a drop in power at the end of the year, and discusses his move to first base in 2015 and how he is preparing for that move.