Monday, March 5, 2012

Pirates Extend Andrew McCutchen

Late last night Michael Sanserino of the Post-Gazette reported that Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates have got together and agreed on a deal for a six-year contract extension with an option for the Pirates to pick up another year. After we heard last week that the Pirates and McCutchen’s camp were talking about an extension but they were still a little ways apart. Well a week later the deal is all but done.

All told the contract will cost the Pirates $51.5M over the six years and the Pirates will have a team option for the seventh year at $14.75M. The breakdown of the contract is as follows:

2012 - $500,000
2013 - $4.5M
2014 - $7.25M
2015 - $10M
2016 - $13M
2017 - $14M
2018 - $14.75M club option or $1M buyout
The deal also includes a $1.25M bonus

All told this is going to take up all three of McCutchen’s arbitration years and up to three free agency years if the Pirates exercise the team option which I wouldn’t see why they wouldn’t if McCutchen continues his progression of play.

This deal lands right around where McCutchen’s camp was looking as he got paid just a little more than Jay Bruce and Justin Upton and when all things are considered I think we will probably look at this deal as a pretty team friendly deal. Sure McCutchen can go down the tubes but form his performance thus far I really don’t see that happening. FanGraphs goes over this in much more detail than I could and it should be a must read for anyone that is reading this.

The Pirates now have two players signed to long term deals from their core. Jose Tabata was signed last season to a very team friendly deal and McCutchen was signed this year. There was a lot of talk and speculation about when the Pirates might entertain trading McCutchen because they would be reluctant to pay big money. One would assume that Neil Walker would be next which is something that Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors looked at [] today as the next step for the Pirates. I must say that I agree a lot with what Tim said here in terms of years and money and I would think that this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Back to McCutchen. Going into all this the hope was that McCutchen would give the Pirates two free agent years. If this was only a four year deal there wouldn’t be much advantage to it other than setting fixed cost but if Cutch got to free agency I think there would be little chance of him being a Pittsburgh Pirate with how much money some teams could throw his way. The other thing buying control does is that it gives a set cost to Neal Huntington and Pirates management through the 2018 season. If they did not sign Cutch and went through the arbitration process they would have had a vague idea of what they would spend but in no way would they know the exact price. Now, they have that price set in stone which will help them in making other team driven decisions down the road when they will be contenders.

It is no lie that McCutchen is one of the best centefielder in the game, but when is the last time that the Pirates had a young talent and were able to lock him up through his prime years? In 2000 the Pirates signed Jason Kendall to a six year deal for $60M and that is probably the last time they had a star talent like this.

In a deal like this you usually have the team and the player meeting in the middle to get something done and in this aspect I really think you saw that work. The Pirates took the chance on McCutchen that he is going to be that cornerstone player that the Pirates will build the team around and they are putting their chips in his basket. McCutchen probably gave up some money to stay in Pittsburgh by signing away as many as three free agent years but maybe more important is that McCutchen is buying in to what is going on in Pittsburgh. I would assume that by signing a deal like this he feels that the Pirates are in the right direction and that he wants to be a part of that. I am sure he knows that the losing streak can continue but he must think, at least in some respect, that the Pirates are going to turn this around.

What might get lost in the shuffle here is the job that Neal Huntington and the Pirates front office has done. This is no longer the time of Cam Bonifay or Dave Littlefield. The Pirates finally have a plan and they are beginning to execute it. They are no afraid to spend money in the draft and now they have shown that they are not afraid to spend the money on players that the front office thinks will get them to a winning ball club. Granted, it is going to take more than signing Tabata, McCutchen and Walker to get the Pirates where they need to be but in my lifetime I can’t remember a time where I felt the front office had a direction or a plan. This front office started with the minor leagues and revamped the organization and now they are finally getting that into order and they can focus in on signing the young talent they have on the major league roster.

Today was a really exciting day to be a Pirates fan. Enjoy it.

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