What happened to the Andrew McCutchen who finished top-five in NL MVP voting four straight seasons from 2012 to 2015? Fantasy owners saw the 30-year-old unexpectedly drop off a cliff last summer. He batted just .241/.311/.408 with a 35:107 BB:K through July. A final two-month rally -- .284 batting average, .852 OPS and 34:36 BB:K -- helped salvage a terrible showing, but serious questions remain. Defensively, McCutchen finished last in defensive runs saved (-28) and numerous other metrics, leading to speculation Pittsburgh might move him from center field. They should. He swiped only six bases (in 13 attempts) and rarely showed the athleticism that made him elite. The outfielder will likely rebound to some extent in 2017, but even his late-season improvement wasn't on par with his previous All-Star seasons. Waiting on him to drop in drafts might be the best route to take.
McCutchen will bat third for the Pirates this season, MLB.com's Adam Berry reports. While the Pirates have understandably cooled on McCutchen's outfield defense, they will still rely on him to serve as a run producer in the three hole this season. He hit .268/.349/.450 with 15 home runs and five steals (on nine attempts) over 395 plate appearances in that spot in the lineup last season.
McCutchen is on the USA roster for the World Baseball Classic, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. He will be joined in the outfield by Adam Jones, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton. After the Pirates announced he will move to the corner outfield in 2017, it will be interesting to see where manager Jim Leyland plays McCutchen during the WBC.
McCutchen will play right field for the Pirates in 2017. The Pirates are switching up their outfield alignment, with Starling Marte moving to center field and Gregory Polanco taking over in left. McCutchen had his worst defensive season in 2016 and at 30 years old, he is likely better suited at the corner outfield spot.
Speaking at the team's Piratefest on Saturday, McCutchen refused to blame thumb and knee injuries for his poor performance in 2016. "I just didn't have it," he told DK Pittsburgh Sports. "It just wasn't there. It had nothing to do with injuries. I didn't produce the way that I wanted to, that's plain and simple. I appreciate it, because people are like, 'Something's not right. Something's off. He has to be injured to not be performing.' Honestly, it was nothing. The performance just wasn't there." McCutchen is unsure whether he'll remain in center field. "Who knows if something changes," he said. "I don't know that, all the way. Hopefully we'll have a more definitive answer going into spring training. ... Center field, right, left, I'm just happy to be playing." The outfielder also cleared the air with GM Neal Huntington after hearing his name mentioned in trade talks at the winter meetings. "We had a good conversation and basically ended it on good terms and went from there," McCutchen noted.
McCutchen is increasingly likely to remain in Pittsburgh in 2017 with a move from center field to one of the corner spots, Jon Heyman FanRag Sports reports. With a trade market full of quality veteran outfielders, the Pirates may be changing course with McCutchen and considering dealing other pieces, perhaps prospects, from the organization instead. McCutchen's contract can keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2018 season, as he'll collect $14 million in 2017 before a $14.5 million option is on the table for 2018.