When you talk about the most elite African-American superstars of the last decade, Andrew McCutchen comes in at the top of most lists.
After a season in which “Cutch,” long-considered a Top 10 player in the game, had career lows in batting average (.256) OPB (.336) and slugging percentage (.430) and ranked at the very bottom of any player in baseball in Defensive Runs Saved after winning a Gold Glove just four years ago, the Pirates are considering dealing The Black Knight as the Winter Meetings draw near.
According to mlb.com, the Nationals remained the front-runner to acquire the 2013 NL MVP as of late Thursday, though the Rangers were also in contact with the Pirates, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported early Friday.
The eight-year veteran with the wild, knotty dreads and unique combination of power, speed and defensive mastery, led Pittsburgh’s charge back to respectability. He arrived in MLB’s Saigon in 2009 and finished fourth in the Rookie of The Year Voting. By 2013 he was an NL MVP and transformed the Bucs from the losingest franchise in Northeast American sports into playoff contenders and a squad to be reckoned with.
No player in all of MLB has meant more to a franchise than McCutchen. He's a pillar of the community and even when nobody in the city of Pittsburgh had confidence in a Pirate’s revival, Cutch was always talking positive and wouldn’t buy into any of the past failures.
Clubs are undoubtedly asking about the five-time All-Star. In addition to the Nats and Rangers and Dodgers, who all have a loaded farm system with appealing talent, the Giants, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mariners, Astros and Indians are interested.The Bucs say they could be coerced to part with him -- but only for the right offer.
However, that right offer may never come because McCutchen still managed to hit 24 homers and he’s been battling injuries that have obviously compromised aspects of his game (speed and defense), so there's a reason for his rough season. Cutch failed to hit double digits in steals for the first time in his career in 2016.
With Cutch just 30 years old, any Pirates exec who assumes that he is on the decline and won’t bounce back from a “down” season, is taking a big risk. The greatest players have rocky years in baseball. It’s that kind of sport. It’s the hardest sport to be consistently great in.
McCutchen hasn’t responded to the trade rumors much. He probably feels a bit slighted, but is most likely looking forward to potentially playing on a team with more talent and more fluid cash flow.
So it is what it is.
"I'm under contract with them, right? That's the way I'm looking at it," McCutchen said at the end of the season. "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."
MLB Network reports say talks with the Nationals have heated up and Washington wants to complete a deal before Friday's 8 p.m. ET contract-tender deadline, because doing so would put some other position changes and business moves favorably into place for them.
The Pirates are said to be interested in a package deal involving Nationals Minor League outfielder Victor Robles. Robles, 19, is the Nationals' No. 2 overall prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline.com. Gulf Coast League, Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac.
With all due respect to the young gem, McCutchen is a proven MLB commodity with lot to prove in 2017 -- especially if he gets traded off of one bad season after all he has done for the revival of Pittsburgh’s baseball mojo.
In doing so, you basically ripped the heart and soul out of the squad by getting rid of the game’s best brother balling.
A dude who led a laughingstock franchise to three straight playoff appearances from 2013-2015, after a 22-year drought. While Bucs ownership knows there could be backlash, they are a notoriously frugal organization and McCutchen has one guaranteed year remaining on his contract as well as a $14.75 million club option for 2018.
He will want to ante-up at some point and get paid what he is worth to the franchise. They probably figure that winning 98 games in 2015, but disappointingly losing in the Wild Card was as good as this team was going to do and dumping their biggest star is just good business.
Looking forward, they can't afford to pay a potentially declining superstar big bucks, and the franchise doesn't want the pressure of having to resign him for an exorbitant amount of gwop if he keeps raking for the next two seasons. Also, the club's greatest need is better arms in the rotation and dealing McCutchen could yield a couple of innings eaters.
As far as Nats fans are concerned, they can’t get this deal done fast enough. Imagine having two of the Top 5 outfielders in the sport on your team at the same time. Two young (but injury prone) MVP winners in the heart of your lineup. If Nats GM Mike Rizzo can pull off this heist, then the Nats are definite favorites to represent the National League in the World Series in 2017.