Pirates Prospects Daily: Andrew McCutchen Brings More Than Nostalgia To Pirates Lineup

The Pittsburgh Pirates made quite the splash on Friday, bringing back a familiar face to the fold for the 2023 season.

One of the most iconic players to ever play for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen returned to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal worth $5 million.

This signing has obviously opened up all the nostalgic feelings that you would expect from a player that was the face of the organization during their last run of success. 

He’s obviously a different player than he was in those days, but nonetheless, a solid signing for the Pirates that you felt needed a ‘W’ with the mess that has come with the Bryan Reynolds situation.

While this is certainly a feel good moment for the Pirates, and the fanbase, and even though he isn’t the same player that he was during his previous time with the team, that doesn’t mean this is completely a PR stunt.

McCutchen is coming off a 17-home run season with the Milwaukee Brewers, and while he finished just under league average when it comes to wRC+ (98), there’s still plenty there to think he can get back over the 100 mark like he has been the rest of his career.

Seen mostly as a platoon option, he was slightly below average against righties this past year (95 wRC+), it was actually his highest mark since 2019. With such a lefty-heavy outfield currently on the 40-man roster, not only does he give them a platoon option but he’s still a borderline everyday player.

The main question is where he is going to play defensively. Since Baseball Savant started tracking Outs Above Average in 2016, only five players have a worse OAA (-36) than McCutchen does. He did break even with the Brewers in 2022, although the majority of the season he spent as the team’s DH.

Baseball Savant isn’t the only outlet that hasn’t graded McCutchen favorable defensively, in fact, this is nothing new even going back to his original days in Pittsburgh. He posted a -26 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2016 with the Pirates, following that up with a -12 mark in 2017.

Even in his MVP season in 2013, he posted just a +3 DRS, which is one less than what Baseball Reference actually graded him this past season in left field (+4).

I had written previously about how, despite there being plenty of options, the outfield picture seemed to have more questions than it should. While we will have to wait and see how much he factors into the actual outfield picture, this signing certainly helps cement a good amount of the questions.

Deadline For Arbitration Eligible Players

The Pirates came to terms with four of their five arbitration eligible players before the deadline on Friday, with Ji-Man Choi the only one not signing.

The rotation continues to look more and more solidified, with JT Brubaker and Mitch Keller both signing to go along with Rich Hill, Roansy Contreras, and for now, Vince Velasquez. You can argue about the last one, but his contract probably locks him in for a couple of starts this upcoming season.

It will be really interesting to see if Brubaker and Keller can build off their 2022 seasons. Keller really started to come into his own as a reliable starter, the next step with consistency. Brubaker is interesting as some of his base numbers aren’t eye popping, but if you dig deeper, he had a better season than it shows on paper and fits perfectly as a backend starter, even on a competing team.

The bullpen will be interesting and if everyone stays mostly healthy and settles into a role, it could be far deeper than it was the previous year. Robert Stephenson was one of the more reliable pitchers on the team after being acquired, and Duane Underwood Jr. keeps hanging around.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**The Pirates are bringing back Andrew McCutchen. And there was much rejoicing.

**The Pirates avoided arbitration with four players, leaving only Ji-Man Choi off the list.

**In the latest Pirates Discussion, Jeff Reed looks at the upcoming international signing period, as well as the history of the Pirates developing international prospects.

**Sammy Siani and Ernny Ordonez picked up two hits each in the latest Pirates winter league update.

Song of the Day

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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Looking at the 40-man, Joe would be the easy DFA to open slot for Cutch. Why would we need a 30-year old second year light hitting utility player? If your OPS is under .700 while playing at Coors half the time, what’s the point?


I’ve finally realized why this feels so cool to me.

I’m 32. I can count on one hand the athletes that I can still view as “heros.” These remaining heros for me either play hockey, or are Andrew McCutchen.

These are the final few links I have to a time when I was, well, a child. It just… means a lot to me to get to root for one of my last heros, right here, one last time.

Anyway, I think he’s the everyday left fielder due to the small sample success there last yr and the weak arm.

Theyre gonna be strong defenders at some positions and weak defenders at some positions. So be it.


So apparently Mackey published an article about how this Cutch deal happened, and it involved Cutch texting Nutting directly, and then Nutting “approaching” Cherington, and then Cherington and Cutch meeting to get it done. Can someone with a P-G sub provide further details? The way it sounds from the summary on MLBTR, it seems like the FO wasn’t really interested, then Cutch appealed to ownership, and ownership directed the FO to get something done. Would that be an accurate interpretation of what Mackey is reporting?


From what I heard yesterday was that Cutch and Nutting had remained friendly and in communication after the trade to the Giants. It was said they talked over New Years and that is when the process started. This was during a conversation between the Fan PM guys and Greg Brown


Fascinating. Cherington has already been knocked around by the Boston media market in his career & likely could care less and is desensitized to small potatoes PR backlash here. To the degree the Cutch signing suggests even slightly that the Nuttings aren’t exactly thrilled with the current Google search of their Family name (after all they must have SOME earned media savvy & sensitivity given that they actually own newspapers) — tip of the hat to Nutmeg, this is a Home Run move. And if this is the case, tip of the hat also to Cutch for being smart enough to make a direct appeal to an owner with lower approval ratings than Congress. Win/win. Sure Cutch no longer is Cutch, but I love this move.

We should also probably thank Bryan Reynolds and his agent for appropriately brining national shame to Nutting’s ownership scheme and perhaps indirectly leading to moves like this.

Wilbur Miller

Yep. The way Mackey put it, the potential barrier was Cutch’s role and whether it’d interfere with the grand plan to start trying win a few games somewhere in the far distant future. The resolution was that Cutch’s role would be depth OF and DH, which is realistic.
No mention of money. I’d guess the FO figured Cutch would be outside their weenie budget until Cutch made his case to Bargain Bob.
Cutch supposedly told Nutting he wanted to finish his career in Pgh., so unless he has a bounce back year this is likely to be it.


Why did Cutch have to contact Nutting if the barrier had been his role? If he was willing to relent on his role why couldn’t his agent have just told Cherington that? That doesn’t pass the smell test. It sounds more like the FO just wasn’t interested, and Cutch decided to go over their heads.

Wilbur Miller

Right, but the possible role was probably the reason the FO wasn’t interested. That’s what I took from the story.


I see. It still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Cutch would need to text Nutting in order to communicate that he wanted to return to PIT and was willing to be a bench player, if that’s really the only thing that was standing in the way of a deal. But whatever. The significant fact, from my perspective, is that ownership dictated baseball ops moves, which is really upsetting.

Wilbur, would you mind clarifying one more thing? When you say the role they eventually agreed on is “depth OF and DH,” do you mean that Cutch is expected to be depth at both positions, i.e., not a full-time player, or do you mean he’s expected to be a semi-full-time player, mostly at DH?


The owner always informs the moves made by the operations staff. It does so when it gives the GM/PBO a budget. Nutting informed Cherrington that he would like Cherrington to make a deal with Cutch. It’s Nutting’s money, so to speak, and if he wants to change the payroll budget to make peace with the fan base, which has endured terrible baseball for the last years, then so be it. Cutch can still play. This is not charity.

Wilbur Miller

That was the exact phrase from the article. I have to think semi regular.


Okay. I appreciate the info. Thanks.


There’s history here. Cutch was reluctant for Marte to take over CF, even though Marte was clearly better. If I knew that, the FO did too.

A little context may be useful. Almost all left fielders have a negative fWAR number due to positional adjustment. Oddly, Suwinski was a positive outlier. That’s weird, because his rep was as a positionless player.


My interpretation had a couple takeaways.

One, McCutchen knows Nutting personally but likely doesn’t know Cherington personally. Two, McCutchen genuinely wants to play in Pittsburgh. That’s something that might not have been relayed back and forth between Andrew’s agent and our GM in whatever (probably brief) discussions they had prior to McCutchen contacting Nutting.

Last edited 22 days ago by madlock5

Okay, but then why were those discussions so brief if Cutch genuinely wanted to return to PIT? I’m struggling to think of a plausible reason aside from the FO just not being interested. It seems like Nutting essentially made the FO do something they didn’t want to do, which wouldn’t be the first time and bodes horribly for the future of the franchise.


Once we got Joe (who can also play 1B and only has 2+ years of service time), getting McCutchen didn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t think getting Joe made a lot of sense either but that’s a separate issue.

I don’t think Nutting is hands-on for personnel moves very often. He may set the payroll limits low. I don’t think he butts into baseball issues much (maybe Burnett returning and Reynolds’ contract last year). That’s about all I can think of where he inserted himself. Of course, there could be more and it just didn’t become public.

Edit: for one more thought – it’s bad form for an agent to tell a team that a player really, really wants to play for a certain team. That just increases the team’s leverage in negotiations. We’re pretty far into the off-season for players to sign. I’m guessing the offers McCutchen was getting were lower than he hoped and doors were closing as teams signed other outfielders to fill holes. If he’s getting about the $5 mil range anyway, then I guess he decided he’d like to get that amount in Pittsburgh rather than somewhere else.

Last edited 22 days ago by madlock5

One thing i noticed with Cutch’s #’s being down the last couple years was his BABIP being quite low. His sprint speed is still good enough. I have a theory about older veteran hitters seeing their numbers decline not just because theyre getting older/slower, but also because theres way more data out there about them & pitchers should be able to game plan against them & fielders should be able to position accordingly.


His expected stats were also better than his actuals, which supports this theory.

Wilbur Miller

His sprint speed has hardly changed. At age 35 he’s around 90th percentile, which is impressive. He’s far more heavily shifted than the avg RH hitter, so if you buy the idea that banning it will turn some careers around, it could make a difference.


I haven’t seen my 20 year old this excited for Pirates baseball since 2019. He persuaded me buy tickets for the first time since 2018.

What an amazing business concept, generate interest in your product, then sell more of it.


My family and I have Opening Day tickets, which we were excited about since it will be our first one. My daughters started texting me at work about the Cutch signing. Needless to say, Cutch’s return has them even more amped up for that game and the season.


With the additions of Cutch and the other veterans we will finally be trying to win every game. No more pulling pitchers after 80 pitches to manage their confidence levels, no more bullpen games, no more playing people out of position just to see how they handle it. One of the benefits of having quality veterans who are not going to put up with that mentality.


I’ll check back with you on the pulling pitchers thing in June, ok?

Scam likely

How much war do the new 34 milion dollars worth of players bring. Over /under of 7.5.


Honestly I’d prefer spending the money on fewer players that had more impact. Something like Q, Barnhart, Kiermaier, etc.
Is Brian Anderson still available?


I would as well, but I think they’re being realistic about where that are on the competition curve. I love the roster churn; it was definitely needed. This off-season was a great first step. My only criticism is that I wish they did more with the bullpen.


That’s a fair point as well. It feels like they fashion themselves as an NL version of the Rays, which may take awhile to get the roster churn down.


Re Anderson, I believe he is available but where would you put him? He is a 3B.


I think (before Cutch signed) he would have been an intriguing buy low four-corners type of guy.


I’m not going to complain about Ben’s additions. I think he did well. Free agents can choose where they want to go and the guys you list are all on contenders. If I’m Q, I’m going to the Mets every single time over the pirates.


Oh if the alternative was doing nothing or this, I’m fine with it. I like the additions of Cutch, Hill and Santana especially. They’re better than they were in 22.
The names aren’t really relevant as to whether they went to contenders or not. Sub in Tyler Anderson for Q if you want a similar type value guy who signed with a non-contender. There were other options then the three I listed.

Last edited 22 days ago by ArkyWags

Just for S&G, the Pirates just spent 30+ mil on 1 VG LHSP, 2 experienced RP’s – one R, one L, 2 VG 1B who are also DH quality hitters, 2 OF’s, and an upgrade at C.

If handled correctly, this team can compete and also make some interesting trades at the deadline. Maybe this will be the year when they bring up all of the young quality pitchers and players from AAA and start playing Aug, Sep, and Oct with the 2024 team.

Oh, almost forgot – DFA Shelton any time after March, and install Don Kelly as the interim Manager.


You know, I was thinking about Shelton and thought he managed the way Nutting wanted him to. I don’t think Shelton is a very good manager, but maybe with the Buccos FO willing to try and win again, we will see a better game manager.
I have to think that, I have to believe that. I’m getting to old and want to see the Buccos win one more time.
Besides, I’m rooting for Shelton….he got an extension on his contract, so he isn’t going anywhere.


Great title for this piece. ‘Cutch adds a lot of good memories, but his bat to ball skills and footspeed are still current. In fact, the Pirates will field a lineup that will be much better offensively in 2023. Borrowing some numbers from Statcast:

No. 14 Oneil Cruz, 8.9%
No. 67 Jack Suwinski, 7.0%
No. 82 Ji-Man Choi, 6.7%
No. 97 Carlos Santana, 6.3%
No. 106 Andrew McCutchen, 5.9%
No. 131 Bryan Reynolds, 5.2%

If interested, the Braves have 8 hitters in the Top 100, but the Pirates having 4 in the Top 100 and ‘Cutch and Reynolds close to the Top 100 is a major positive step. Defensively, KeBryan Hayes was the 4th Best in MLB with a +18 in Outs Above Average (OAA). Choi +2 OAA and Santana +3 OAA are strong defensively which is a big improvement at 1B, and will also help the other infield position players. Jack Suwinski was a +1 OAA, and we need to see some improvement from Reynolds, Cruz, and Castro in 2023. Catcher will be a major improvement also.


Pardon the dumb question, but what are the percentages at the end?


Great post. Also the pitching depth and upside is respectable. Trading Wilson and Thompson and maybe (also due to options) guys like Holderman and de los Santos start in the minors despite looking like guys we planned to overwork before the off season started


Finally getting Hill signed is big and pushes Velasquez to 6th SP/BP, where he pitched most of 2022. Looks like Bednar, Velasquez, Crowe, Stephenson, Underwood, Garcia look like locks for the BP. Holderman and De Los Santos finished 2022 on the IL, so they will get a long look at ST as to whether they are ready.

Selby, Ortiz, Hernandez are locks for AAA, where the starters and relievers look to be very strong.


Hernandez is Rule V and a second lefty so I imagine they’ll give him every opportunity to stick with the big league club.


I thought he had one option remaining.


Doesn’t matter if he has options. If he is not on the 26 man he has to be put on waivers/offered back.

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