Yes, the evil empire known as the Chicago Cubs has won its post-rebuilding World Series before the longer-in-rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates could win theirs. But I’m starting to get the vibe that the Pirates are about to make the dumbest move since they signed Pat Meares to a $15 million contract extension in 1999.
I’ll be as clear as I can be: Trading Andrew McCutchen would be a huge mistake, a blunder of colossal proportions. Yes, McCutchen was lousy this season — Derek Bell Operation Shutdown lousy — but hasn’t he done enough to earn a little grace from the team and the city?
Before McCutchen arrived on the scene in 2009, the team stunk — stunk like a Tuesday-morning tailgate-lot Port-O-John after a Monday-night Steelers game. When he stepped into center field, he showed us what baseball in Pittsburgh could be in the future, and then he delivered on the dream. The Pirates went to the postseason three times beginning in 2013, and McCutchen, a five-time All-Star, has won an MVP award and been in the top five in voting on three other occasions.
But now after posting the worst season of his career, following his four best, everyone’s ready to give Cutch the boot. But before you give him that Megabus ticket to New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, take a minute to think about what exactly Pirates management is proposing.
McCutchen is signed to a team-friendly contract through 2018. And yes, if he plays like he did in 2016, it’s a gross overpayment. But does anyone really think this is the end of McCutchen? Do you really think the seven seasons before this one were the anomaly and that what we just experienced was the real Andrew McCutchen? Nobody with any knowledge of the game really thinks that, do they?
While his numbers were nowhere near Cutch-like, were they really let’s-talk-trade bad? He hit .256, had 23 home runs, 79 RBI and six stolen bases. His on-base percentage was the most alarming number, falling from .401 in 2015 to .336. Based on what McCutchen is capable of producing, it’s worth a small gamble to see if this was a good player having a bad season or devolution to the new normal.
My prediction? Andrew McCutchen will bounce back in 2017. Let’s hope it happens here and not in New York or Chicago.