Tag: Pittsburgh Pirates

Jordy Mercer Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates “had preliminary discussions about a contract extension” with shortstop Jordy Mercer, per Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review.

Continue for updates.

Deal Isn’t ‘Imminent’

Sunday, Jan. 8

Biertempfel cited a source who said “no deal seems imminent.” According to the source, there was “a little, but not a lot of talk” regarding a potential multiyear contract.

Biertempfel noted Mercer made $2.075 million in the 2016 season and is in the second of three years for salary arbitration eligibility. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projected in October that Mercer would make $4 million in 2017.

While there are bigger names on the Pirates roster, Mercer was solid during the 2016 season. He appeared in 149 games, which tied his career-high mark, and brought some timely power with 11 home runs and 22 doubles. He also finished with career highs in hits, RBI and walks as a regular in the Pittsburgh order:

However, Mercer’s defense took a step back in 2016.

According to FanGraphs, he was responsible for minus-nine total defensive runs saved above average at shortstop after checking in at an even zero in 2015 and nine in 2014.

Even though there have been some talks about an extension, it is difficult to envision the 30-year-old Mercer as the future of the shortstop position for the Pirates.

MLB.com ranked Kevin Newman as the organization’s fourth-best prospect in 2016, and he could be set to take over the position by the time Mercer’s years of salary arbitration eligibility are up.

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With Ivan Nova Back, Pirates Should Go All-In on Big 3 with Jose Quintana Splash

Offseason plans can change in a hurry. Just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At the winter meetings, there were rumblings the Pirates were sellers. Specifically, they were shopping center fielder and former franchise cornerstone Andrew McCutchen. 

Trade rumors are still swirling around the 2013 National League MVP. On Thursday, though, the Bucs became buyers, inking right-hander Ivan Nova to a three-year, $26 million deal, according to FanRag Sports’ Robert Murray.

Nova is a modest splash. But couple his signing with word that Pittsburgh has “worked hard” to trade for Chicago White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana, per ESPN The Magazine‘s Buster Olney, and you have the makings of an all-in strategy.

Why not?

Sure, the Pirates finished a disappointing 78-83 last season and missed the playoffs after three consecutive wild-card berths. 

No, Pittsburgh will never win an arms race in the NL Central with the defending champion Chicago Cubs, who have a bigger budget and a galaxy of young stars.

This team can contend, though. Another crack at the Wild Card Game is within reach, provided the Pirates stay aggressive.

Pittsburgh’s offense is more than adequate. Despite a down year from McCutchen—who posted a career-low .766 OPS—the Pirates finished sixth in the NL in runs (729) and fifth in batting average (.257).

A bounce-back year from McCutchen, assuming the Pirates keep him, could vault the lineup into the NL’s upper echelon. 

The bullpen ranked fifth in the NL with a 3.57 ERA. The loss of closer Mark Melancon, whom the Pirates dealt at the 2016 trade deadline, diminished the relief corps, but it’s not a glaring weakness. And they added right-hander Daniel Hudson for two years and $11 million. 

Instead, Pittsburgh can concentrate its resources on forming a top-flight rotation.

Inking Nova was a solid first step. The 29-year-old Dominican posted an unspectacular 4.17 ERA last season. But he upped his game after a deadline swap from the New York Yankees to Pittsburgh, going 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 64.2 innings.

After six-plus up-and-down seasons in the Bronx, Nova looked comfortable in black and yellow. 

“I don’t want to leave this clubhouse, to be honest,” he said in late September, per Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Now he doesn’t have to. He rejoins a rotation fronted by ace Gerrit Cole, who dealt with a triceps strain last season but was an All-Star and top-five NL Cy Young Award finisher in 2015.

With promising young right-handers Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow also in the mix, the Pirates already have the makings of a stout starting five.

Quintana, however, could join Cole and Nova to form a legitimate Big Three.

The 27-year-old southpaw has eclipsed 200 innings in each of the past four campaigns. Last season, he posted a career-best 3.20 ERA. If you like WAR, between 2013 and 2016, Quintana’s 18.1 mark ranked seventh among pitchers by FanGraphs’ measure

Most intriguingly for the budget-conscious Bucs, Quintana is locked into an affordable contract. His deal will pay him $7 million in 2017 and $8.85 million in 2018, followed by a $10.5 million team option in 2019 and an $11.5 million club option in 2020.

That said, he won’t come cheap. The White Sox asked for the Houston Astros‘ top two prospects plus another MLB-ready arm in exchange for Quintana, per baseball insider Peter Gammons

That means the Pirates would likely have to part with Glasnow, their No. 1 prospect, plus either outfielder/No. 2 prospect Austin Meadows or first baseman/No. 3 prospect Josh Bell and a high-upside ancillary piece. 

It’s a huge ask. Quintana is a huge get. That’s how these things work.

The Pirates’ win-now window remains open. With the Cubs representing the class of the division and the St. Louis Cardinals always lurking, however, the Pirates can’t afford to hang back, as Sean Gentille of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote:

If the Pirates feel good about their chances from now until 2019 — that is, if they feel like they said they’d feel a few years ago — they’ll keep McCutchen and actually go get Quintana. They won’t just try. They’ll make the choice to maximize whatever shot, as currently constituted, they’ve got left. They’ll do right by their fans. They’ll, you know, get better.

Re-upping Nova made them a bit better. Trading for Quintana would make them a lot better. Toss in Cole and an above-average offense and you have a postseason contender.

A few weeks ago, the Bucs appeared to be sellers. Now it’s time for them to adjust their sails.


All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com unless otherwise noted. Prospect ratings by MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Ivan Nova Re-Signs with Pirates: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced they have re-signed starting pitcher Ivan Nova on a three-year contract on Tuesday.

Robert Murray of FanRag Sports, citing sources, first reported the three-year deal was worth $26 million, with a $2 million signing bonus on Dec. 22. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, citing a source, confirmed Murray’s report and noted the deal is still pending a physical. 

Nova watched his stock drop considerably across his final two-plus seasons with the New York Yankees. With his contract set to expire, the club traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August, and the move seemed to provide the spark the Dominican Republic native needed.

The 29-year-old right-hander posted a 3.06 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 52 strikeouts in 64.2 innings across 11 starts after the move. It represented a significant improvement after putting up a 4.90 ERA in 21 appearances for the Yankees.

John Perrotto of Today’s Knuckleball noted the veteran starter credited pitching coach Ray Searage and getting away from the bright lights of New York for the turnaround in September.

“He’s a great pitching coach,” Nova said. “We’re having fun here with him. I think that’s one of the keys. It gives me the confidence to go out there and have fun and do the best that you can. We couldn’t always have fun in New York.”

Nova had three complete games during the stretch run with Pittsburgh, which matched his total from his six-plus years with the Yankees. His strong finish also showcased the potential he flashed at times, but never fully capitalized, while in pinstripes.

All told, his overall numbers don’t jump off the page with a 4.30 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 595 strikeouts in 793.2 career innings. He’s in the middle of what’s typically a player’s prime years, however, and it’s reasonable to believe he can still improve in 2017 and beyond.

Staying in Pittsburgh certainly seems like the right decision on the surface. It gives him an opportunity to build off the progress he made during the latter stages of last season and keeps him in a smaller market, which fit his personality well.

It’s also a wise signing for the Pirates. The team still has several question marks in its rotation behind Gerrit Cole, though it hopes Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl can assume more vital roles. Nova can fill a spot in the middle or back of the rotation with the ability to pitch like a No. 2 starter.

Ultimately, it’s no guarantee he’ll parlay his successful finish in 2016 into a breakout season. But it’s a risk worth taking for a team needing pitching depth. 


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Andrew McCutchen Blockbuster Trade Is Calculated Risk Nationals Must Take

In a baseball year that was about ending droughts, the Washington Nationals had to sit back and wonder why they were left out.

They have a good team. They won 95 games, the third time in the last five years they’ve won at least that many (no one else has done it more than twice).

All it got them was another chance at October frustration. The Nationals didn’t win a postseason series. The Nationals have never won a postseason series.

You want to talk about droughts? That’s a drought.

They can ask why, or they can do something about it. They can ask why, or they can ask the question Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein famously posed after his July trade for Aroldis Chapman, per ESPN.com:

“If not now, when?”

Now is when for the Nationals, and it’s clear they understand it. A National League executive who knows the Nationals well said early in the offseason they would make Chris Sale a priority, and sure enough, reporting by FanRag‘s Jon Heyman and Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal suggests they are among the front-runners for the Chicago White Sox ace. Rosenthal also reported on Twitter the Nationals are among at least two teams with a four-year, $60 million offer for Mark Melancon, the closer they acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in July.

Then there’s Andrew McCutchen.

This is the time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to trade their star center fielder, and this is the time for the Nationals to go get him.

Trea Turner did a fine job in center field the second half of the season, but the best way for the Nationals to make the most of his talent is to put Turner back at shortstop. Bryce Harper could move to center field if the Nationals acquired another corner guy, but Harper is best if he’s playing one of the corner spots.

McCutchen isn’t the all-around threat he was in 2013, when he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player and helped end Dusty Baker’s tenure with the Cincinnati Reds (after McCutchen‘s Pirates beat Baker’s Reds in the NL Wild Card Game). But his subpar 2016 ended with enough improvement in August and September to convince scouts he can still be a star.

He’d be a fit in the Nationals clubhouse, and he’d be a great fit in the Nationals lineup, a right-handed force for Baker to mix with the left-handed hitting Harper and Daniel Murphy in the middle of the order.

As ESPN.com‘s Jayson Stark reported, the Pirates and Nationals “ramped up” talks about a McCutchen deal last week. Stark suggested pitchers Joe Ross and Reynaldo Lopez as possible Pittsburgh targets in a deal. Other speculation has centered on 19-year-old outfield prospect Victor Robles, who Rosenthal identified as a Pirates target in a possible Pirates-Nationals McCutchen deal that fell through last summer.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is notoriously hesitant to part with his best prospects. Rizzo has shown a willingness to make trades—he got Melancon from the Pirates and has made other deals for Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span in recent years—but he has also been conscious of the future.

The future is fine, and the Nationals’ future remains bright, but they also understand they have a window to win big that might not remain open that long. Harper and Murphy have two years to go to free agency, and while ace Max Scherzer is signed through 2021, he turns 33 next July.

In other words, if not now, when?

Like Sale, McCutchen has the added attraction of carrying a reasonable contract. That’s significant for a Nationals team that has more than $100 million committed to six players for 2017. Sale would add just $12 million to the 2017 payroll, a true bargain for a left-handed ace.

McCutchen will make $14 million in 2017, with a club option for $14.5 million the following year.

As I wrote last month, he’s a bargain if he comes anywhere near the form that put him in the top five in MVP voting four straight years from 2012-15. The risk would come if last year’s decline was a sign McCutchen‘s age (30) has already robbed him of the speed that made him such a dynamic force with the Pirates.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told me he expects “he’s going to come to camp and be Andrew McCutchen again,” but Huntington also admitted the Pirates have had discussions about whether to move McCutchen out of center field. They don’t totally agree with the defensive metrics that painted McCutchen as the worst defensive center fielder in the game (as detailed in the column I did on McCutchen last month), but scouts said the eye test also showed a decline in his defensive skills.

The Nationals would be betting on a bounce-back, but it would be a smart and worthy bet. And a timely bet, too.

After all, if not now, when?


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Andrew McCutchen’s Exit Would End One Pirates Era, Usher in a New One

If anyone’s having trouble imagining Andrew McCutchen wearing something other than a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, don’t worry. Soon you won’t have to.

Because it’ll be reality.

This is according to the hot-stove season’s Masters of Whispers. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Wednesday that McCutchen, a five-time National League All-Star and one-time NL MVP, is the “most likely to go” of the star players on the trading block this winter. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports forcefully concurred:

McCutchen, 30, obviously hasn’t been moved yet. If the center fielder is still in the same frame of mind he was at the end of the season, he’s not sweating it wherever he is.

“I’m under contract with them, right? That’s the way I’m looking at it,” he told MLB.com’s Adam Berry. “I don’t align the stars. I’m not the person that controls all that. I don’t do that. It’s all in God’s hands.”

Well, in this case, McCutchen‘s fate is technically in the hands of Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. While he hasn’t yet moved McCutchen, that could change before you even get to the period at the end of this sentence.

Although nothing ultimately happened, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported Thursday the Pirates had “ramped up” talks with the Washington Nationals, who preferred to get a deal done by the end of the day. They didn’t, but Friday’s a new day with plenty of time for wheelin‘ and dealin‘.

The writing on the wall is easy for the people of Pittsburgh to read: Time to say goodbye.

Oh, it’ll get dusty in there for sure. McCutchen has been with the organization since the Pirates drafted him in the first round back in 2005, after which he largely made a mockery of the minor leagues en route to his major league debut in 2009.

From then on, he’s been the Pirate.

Early on, that only meant being a bright spot on teams that were carrying on a legacy of futility dating back to the team’s last postseason trip in 1992. McCutchen averaged an .822 OPS with 17 homers and 26 stolen bases in his first three seasons, but the Pirates topped 90 losses each year.

Things started to change before the 2012 season even began. The Pirates rewarded McCutchen‘s strong beginning by brightening his future with a six-year contract extension.

“Knowing that Andrew will continue to lead the team for a bright, successful, championship future at PNC Park is a thrill for me—the organization is in a wonderful place,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said, via Tom Singer of MLB.com.

Nutting then turned to McCutchen and said, “You’re going to be a critical part of that as we go forward.”

Spoken like a true prophet. 

McCutchen broke out as a superstar in 2012 with a .953 OPS, 31 homers and 20 stolen bases, winning a Gold Glove as well. That helped the Pirates improve to just 83 losses. His MVP season in 2013 boosted them to 94 wins and put them back in the playoffs as one of the NL’s wild-card teams. They were a wild card again in 2014 and again in 2015 after a 98-win regular season.

McCutchen‘s average season in these three years: a .917 OPS with 23 home runs and 19 stolen bases. In the National League, only Paul Goldschmidt was worth more wins above replacement.

Which brings us to 2016, and where this story gets considerably less nostalgic.

Star players tend to fall off gradually, taking several years to go from great to good to mediocre to bad. This past season saw McCutchen take an express elevator straight to bad. His bat produced a career-low .766 OPS, and defensive runs saved charges that his defense cost the Pirates 28 runs.

Maybe this wasn’t the biggest factor in the Pirates going from 98 wins to 78, but it was a big one. Nor is it the most encouraging stepping stone toward the rest of his contract, which calls for $14 million in 2017 with a $14.5 million option for 2018.

As Passan reported, Pirates ownership did not issue a mandate that McCutchen be moved this winter. There’s a good argument that they shouldn’t move him. Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today cited that $28.5 million is plenty reasonable for a player of McCutchen‘s status, and moving him would be a jab at a fanbase that’s “certainly grown tired of hearing their management cry poor.”

Like it or not, the Pirates are a small-market team with a payroll that can only go so high. With extensive repairs to make, clearing McCutchen‘s deal and getting some talent back before his value declines any further does make sense.

As much as the man himself feels like a Pittsburgh landmark, McCutchen might need a change of scenery. For whatever reason, be it knee soreness left over from 2015 or something else, eagle-eyed observers didn’t see the same bounce in his step in 2016.

“He didn’t play with that Andrew McCutchen edge,” one American League scout told B/R’s Danny Knobler. “Maybe he just needs to get out of there and get some new scenery—unless there’s some long-term medical issue. He has been banged up.”

There is a bright side: Life after McCutchen could be just as fruitful as life with him.

In the short term, the Pirates could fill his shoes in center with the feet of Starling Marte, who’s been an elite defender in left field in addition to a fine offensive player. If Josh Bell lives up to his potential in his first full season at first base, he could more than make up for McCutchen‘s offense from 2016. Coming off a breakout season, right fielder Gregory Polanco can also help pick up the slack.

In the long term, the Pirates will reap the benefits of a farm system that could soon be in the running for the best in the league.

Jim Callis of MLB.com ranked Pittsburgh’s system at No. 4 in August. Although they’ve debuted in the majors, said system still includes Bell and right-hander Tyler Glasnow alongside well-regarded prospects such as outfielder Austin Meadows, shortstop Kevin Newman and right-hander Mitch Keller.

Per Rosenthal, there’s now buzz on getting outfielder Victor Robles from the Nationals. That would mean adding MLB.com’s No. 10 prospect.

It’s easy to hear all this and point to the big ol‘ “Maybe” implied in prospect chatter. But cultivating and establishing a core of homegrown players is essential to winning in today’s MLB. The Pirates know this from their experiences with McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Gerrit Cole and others. They can do it again.

Trading McCutchen will be the end of an era for the Pirates. That’ll be worth lamenting. It was the first era in a while that was worth a damn, and he made it not only possible but that much more enjoyable. There should be a special place in the all-time Pirates pantheon for him.

But it’s not often that a team gets to say goodbye to one good era and hello to another. The Pirates will be in a position to do that if they trade McCutchen, and that would mean just another nice thing to say about his time in Pittsburgh.

He was always good for the Pirates, even on his way out the door.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Andrew McCutchen Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Pirates Star

With the Pittsburgh Pirates facing an uncertain future after a disappointing 2016 season, the likelihood that Andrew McCutchen will be traded seems to be increasing.

Continue for updates.

Pirates Exploring McCutchen Deal

Saturday, Dec. 3

A member of the Pirates organization said the team “doesn’t feel compelled to move McCutchen if the price isn’t right,” per Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.

On Nov. 30, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted that McCutchen’s likelihood of playing in Pittsburgh next season is “dwindling.” Passan also reported the Pirates have been the aggressors in the McCutchen trade talks.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Nov. 30 that the Texas Rangers are a potential option for McCutchen and that the Pirates are talking to other clubs as well.

Nationals Pushing Hard to Land McCutchen

Saturday, Dec. 3

The Washington Nationals remain in talks with the Pirates regarding McCutchen, per Rosenthal.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported Thursday the Pirates and Nationals “have ramped up” talks about McCutchen, noting the Nationals “would like to make this deal today” given the “ripple effect of trading for McCutchen would likely be a move to nontender shortstop Danny Espinosa before tomorrow’s tender date.”

Rosenthal also reported Thursday the Pirates are “targeting” minor league outfielder Victor Robles in talks. Rosenthal added the Nationals have several starting pitching prospects who are almost ready for the majors and that the Pirates would presumably want one of those pitchers in addition to Robles. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Stephen J. Nesbitt reported Friday morning the Pirates were “breaking down video of Nats prospects.”

On Wednesday, Rosenthal reported the Pirates were still exploring potential deals involving McCutchen and that the Nationals were among the clubs showing interest.

The Nationals could be an easy fit as a trade partner with the Pirates. Rosenthal reported earlier this month the two teams discussed a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline in July that would have sent McCutchen to Washington, but it fell apart because of the vast number of moving parts. 

Those previous discussions at least gave the Pirates a reason to study Washington’s farm system.

McCutchen Coming Off Down Year in 2016

McCutchen is a strong buy-low trade candidate this offseason. He is coming off the worst year of his career, with a .256/.336/.430 slash line and the lowest FanGraphs WAR (0.7) among all center fielders who qualified for the batting title.

Now that he’s 30 years old and likely not a viable option in center anymore after putting up an MLB-worst minus-28 defensive runs saved in 2016, his $14 million salary is an albatross for the small-market Pirates.

McCutchen has been a fantastic ambassador for the Pirates and Major League Baseball since he debuted in 2009, but the team has to focus on its long-term outlook.

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Josh Harrison Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Pirates 2B

Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison is a candidate to be dealt this winter.

Continue for updates.

Harrison Reportedly on the Trade Block

Tuesday, Nov. 29

The Pirates are considering trading Harrison this offseason, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. 

Per Rosenthal’s report: “The Pirates tried to re-sign free-agent infielder Sean Rodriguez with the idea of trading Harrison and reallocating dollars to other players, according to major league sources.”

Rosenthal also wrote, “One rival general manager described the Pirates on Thursday as a club that ‘generally’ listens to trade offers for players under long-term control.”

The Pirates find themselves in an interesting situation with Harrison. On one hand, Rodriguez signed with the Atlanta Braves this offseason, taking away the obvious replacement for Harrison. On the other, he is due a guaranteed $18.5 million over the next two seasons, which is a steep price for a player whose offensive production has declined.

In 2016, Harrison, 29, hit .283 with 59 RBI and 57 runs scored, all solid marks. But he hit just four home runs and has only eight homers in the past two seasons combined after ripping 13 in 2014, the year he made the All-Star team.

Harrison remains an excellent fielder, so the Pirates won’t be worse for keeping him this offseason. But his production from 2014 (.315 average with 13 homers, 52 RBI and 77 runs) looks like an outlier season, not the norm.

As Rosenthal noted, the Pirates have Alen Hanson and Adam Frazier waiting in the wings if the team trades Harrison.


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Andrew McCutchen Is the Forgotten Superstar on the MLB Trade Market

There’s a club of major league superstars so exclusive it has just two members.

To get in requires a number of recent top-five finishes in Most Valuable Player voting. One year won’t do—sorry, Bryce Harper—and neither will two. You might get there soon, Manny Machado, but not just yet.

No, to get into this most exclusive club will take at least four years of top-five finishes, all in the last five seasons.

Mike Trout is in, obviously. And less obviously, so is Andrew McCutchen.

The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder had a bad year in 2016. There’s no question about that. His offense dropped off, his baserunning wasn’t great and his defense in center field was the worst in the game by some measures.

He wasn’t an MVP this year. He wasn’t an MVP candidate.

He certainly isn’t Mike Trout.

But McCutchen shouldn’t be forgotten, not in a winter when the Pirates are willing to listen to trade offers for a guy an acquiring team would control for the next two years. There just aren’t many guys out there who can do what he has already done. 

If McCutchen is anything close to the perennial MVP candidate he was from 2012 to 2015 (including his MVP-winning season in 2013), then he’s a bargain at $14 million next year. If he’s the player he was for much of 2016, he’s a drag on your payroll at any price.

“He’s going to come to camp and be Andrew McCutchen again,” Neal Huntington predicted to Bleacher Report last week.

Huntington is hardly a neutral observer. He’s the Pirates general manager, which means he needs McCutchen‘s value to be high for a trade or his performance level to be high if the Pirates keep him.

“We don’t think it’s a coincidence we were really good when he was really good,” Huntington said.

He was the very symbol of the Pirates’ return to relevance, a first-round draft pick who emerged as a star just as the team was becoming a contender. The six-year, $51.5 million contract McCutchen signed during spring training in 2012 was a strong signal from both the team and the player.

He’s available now because limited-budget teams like the Pirates can’t afford to offer big contracts that take players deep into their 30s. McCutchen turned 30 last month, and if that doesn’t make him old now, it means he will be old before his next contract runs out.

It’s the perfect time for a team like the Pirates to think about a trade—or it would be if McCutchen were coming off anything but the worst season of his career. But that might make it the perfect time to acquire him if he’s about to bounce back.

He was bad enough in 2016 to make you wonder if age is already catching up with him. He was bad enough to make you wonder if the injuries that contributed to his drop-off were even worse than he and the Pirates admitted, or if he had issues with manager Clint Hurdle.

“He didn’t play with that Andrew McCutchen edge,” said one American League scout who has followed his career. “Maybe he just needs to get out of there and get some new scenery—unless there’s some long-term medical issue. He has been banged up.”

“His body language wasn’t the same,” said another scout, who works for a National League team. “Was it him getting older or being hurt? This guy played like his hair was on fire before.”

Huntington agreed a hand injury was a factor in McCutchen starting so slow in 2016, but he shot down rumors there could be a lingering knee issue.

“No player is the same at 30 as he was at 25, but he has no long-term health issues at all,” Huntington said.

Huntington pointed to McCutchen‘s stronger performance at the end of the season. His walk-to-strikeout ratio got much better in the final two months, and Huntington said better bat speed led to McCutchen handling high-velocity pitching better as the year went on.

The National League scout said the body language also improved.

“I saw more energy later in the year,” he said.

Another American League scout saw similar improvement and called it a possible sign McCutchen could return to star status.

“He can be a star again,” the scout said. “But I doubt he can be a superstar, because the speed element is somewhat gone.”

Observers generally agree McCutchen has lost a step, cutting down on his ability to steal bases and turning an above-average center fielder into one who is average or worse.

The Pirates believe the defensive metrics are somewhat unfair. Huntington said the Pirates asked McCutchen to play shallower to cut off base hits in front of him, and when pitchers failed to execute, it resulted in him allowing balls to get past him.

But Huntington also admitted the Pirates will consider changing their outfield alignment if McCutchen is back in 2017, with Starling Marte possibly taking over in center field and McCutchen taking a corner spot.

The same metric that gave McCutchen a minus-28 in defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs (the worst by a full-time center fielder since Matt Kemp in 2010), had Marte as plus-19 in left field.

Kemp is one example of a star rebounding from a bad season. He wasn’t good offensively (by his standards) or defensively in 2010, but he bounced back so well he finished second in MVP voting in 2011. Then again, he was only 26.

McCutchen is 30, old enough to make you wonder how many more good years he has left. Remember, though, a team trading for him this winter should mainly be concerned that he has a good 2017-18 remaining.

“I personally think he’s got a couple years,” the National League scout said.

Not surprisingly, McCutchen agrees. Before the season ended, he told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he knows he needs to do better.

“I’ve got to prove—not to [fans] but to the team and to ownership—that I’m able to play out my career at a high level,” McCutchen said. “I didn’t do that this year. I didn’t play at my best level.”

We’ve seen McCutchen at his best level. Few players in the game ever reach that level.

That shouldn’t be forgotten.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Andrew McCutchen Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Pirates OF

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen reportedly will be on the trade block this offseason, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Continue for updates.

Growing Buzz That Pirates Will Trade McCutchen

Sunday, Oct. 2

“There is a growing sense among industry insiders that the team will try to deal McCutchen before he reaches free agency in either one or two years,” Biertempfel wrote. “General manager Neal Huntington likely will quietly shop the five-time All-Star during the offseason, if only to gauge the level of interest.”

Jim Duquette of MLB Network said, per Biertempfel: “There are people I’ve talked to who are convinced the Pirates are going to trade McCutchen this winter.”

McCutchen, 29, has struggled this season, hitting just .255 with 24 home runs, 77 RBI, 81 runs and six stolen bases in 13 attempts. His batting average and steals are career lows, and his run total is the lowest since his rookie season.

McCutchen has been one of the National League‘s best and most consistent players over the past five years and was a regular MVP candidate, winning the award in 2013, finishing third in 2012 and 2014, and finishing fifth last season.

“I think they could get two good prospects for McCutchen,” an American League scout told Biertempfel. “They could get a couple of players like [Felipe] Rivero—young, good prospects who are under team control for a while.”

McCutchen is under contract for next season, with a club option for $14.75 million in 2018. To retain him long-term, the Pirates may have to offer a massive contract.

If Pittsburgh shops him instead, it’s easy to imagine teams around baseball expressing interest. Whether that market is lucrative enough for the Pirates to give up their biggest superstar in years is another matter entirely.


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Wade LeBlanc to Pirates: Latest Trade Details, Comments, Reaction

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a move to bolster their pitching rotation on Tuesday as they cling to their fading postseason hopes.

The team announced it acquired left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. Seattle received cash considerations or a player to be named later in exchange for the southpaw.

This comes after the Pirates announced they placed 2015 All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole on the 60-day disabled list because of right elbow posterior inflammation. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune confirmed the team shut down the ace for the remainder of the 2016 campaign.

LeBlanc appeared in 11 games with eight starts this year for the Mariners and at least provides some more rotational depth for Pittsburgh after losing Cole. The lefty sports a 4.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 50 innings of work this year.

He has also played for the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees since he reached the major league level in 2008.

LeBlanc is likely accustomed to switching teams during the season. According to Sam Robinson of Today’s Knuckleball, he was outrighted earlier this year so the Mariners could bring Nori Aoki back to the majors. What’s more, he pitched for the Marlins and Astros in 2013, the Yankees and Angels in 2014 and in Japan in 2015. 

The 32-year-old posted a 3.94 ERA in 2014 for New York and Los Angeles and a career-best 3.67 ERA in 2012 for Miami.

The Pirates are running out of time to make a move in the National League wild-card race. They are six games behind the New York Mets for the second and final spot in that battle and in the middle of a season-crushing slump. Pittsburgh is just 2-12 since it finished off a four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 28.

Part of the reason for the struggles is the starting rotation, which ranks a disappointing 22nd in the league with a 4.65 ERA, per ESPN.com. While LeBlanc doesn’t have the track record to suggest he will be a season-saver, he provides another experienced arm for manager Clint Hurdle to use down the stretch.

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