Blog Entry

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Posted on: March 6, 2012 1:55 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 4:28 pm

BRADENTON, Fla -- Pirates owner Bob Nutting declared, "This is an exciting day for the Pittsburgh Pirates.'' And so it was. While the newly cost-conscious New York Yankees were practicing on the field behind them, the Pirates, dreadfully low in the spending and winning departments almost all of the past two decades, were announcing their $51.5-million contract for star outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a neat little area by their clubhouse beyond right field.

The Pirates are starting to show they mean business, doing things in recent months they hadn't done in a while, including spending serious money. They acquired semi-pricey veterans Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline last July, imported A.J. Burnett and $13 million of his bloated contract (from said Yankees) on the eve of spring training, and now have signed off on the seceont largest contract in their history for the multitalented McCutchen. The Pirates, it is said, just could not chance losing McCutchen, who is their best player and also a very good player as well (one doesn't necessarily ensure the other).

My contract expert rates this as "a fair deal for both sides,'' though he did note that McCutchen hit .216 in the second half last season and has only one 20-homer season (also last year). It's a very similar deal to those given to two other young star outfielders, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce, and I'd rate McCutchen third in that group, with Upton first and Bruce second. But still a strong third.

As everyone in Pittsburgh knows, the Pirates haven't had a winning season since another young outfielder, Barry Bonds, left town following the 1992 season. So for all they've done the past few years in the way of draft and international signings (draftees Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie are the team's pitching future), and they spent a whopping $50 million in amateur talent since starting with No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez in 2008, everyone understands they had to seal the deal with McCutchen.

The move is rightly being applauded throughout the Pittsburgh area because it is another reminder the team is trying hard. Yet, even after all the good feeling here over the big deal, there are two questions: 1) Did the need to make a statement play a role in signing him? and 2) Was he signed because he's a great ballplayer or a great kid?

As for the first question, Nutting says no. "This signing is not done to make a statement,'' Nutting said. Pirates president Frank Coonelly said that statement signings may only be good for a day, and pointed out that spending this kind of money only for the intention of positive pub carries a great risk. Though of course, if they failed to lock up McCutchen, what would that say? This says they are committed to winning, so whether they intended it or not, a statement was made.

As for whether they signed a person or ballplayer, the main message seemed to be about what kind of young man McCutchen is. "This commitment is one we're willing to make because of the person he is,'' Nutting said in one of multiple statements made along those lines. Here's another, from GM Neal Huntington, "I'd like to thank Andrew's parents for raising such an outstanding person.''

All indications are that McCutchen is just an absolutely terrific kid (he even made a special trip over to say hello to the Pirates beat writers). But there is a danger if a team is paying for persona. There is a reason personality is sometimes cited as a consolation compliment.

Of course, for this deal to work he's going to have to do more than be pleasant to the fans and great in the community; he's going to have to perform on the field. McCutchen wound up hitting only .259 last year with 126 strikeouts, but he has posted consistent OPS marks in his career -- .836, .814 and then .820 last year. He's a very good player who's not yet great. The key is, he is only 25.

Pirates people talked about the type of player they hope he becomes. The reality is, he isn't a $51.5-million player yet. But they think he will be one day.

As we all know, previous Pirates regimes had a knack for giving big deals when they weren't warranted, including one infamous one to journeyman infielder Pat Meares. Their biggest contract ever was a $60 million six-year deal. That one went to Jason Kendall, a catcher who could hit for a high batting average at one time.

Pirates people figure this deal will pay off much better for them. On the day they signed Kendall, they also made a very big statement. And he didn't even have such a great personality.


Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:10 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

I suppose they could have signed a few guys for AAA-contracts and stayed within the "budget" that the New York media seems to think fits teams like the Pirates.

The reality is, he isn't a $51.5-million player yet. But they think he will be one day.

Translated, if the Pirates go cheap, Cutch walks and the Yankees will be glad to pay the 51M bucks.

This seems like a bad-handed attempt to mock the Pirates again.


Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: March 6, 2012 5:40 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Not everything is a cost/benefit anaylsis.  He's a good ballplayer in his prime, the cornerstone of the Pirates right now and for years to come.  Even if you think they overpayed, so what?  The real point is they have started KEEPING their young talent, instead of always trading it away.  Isn't that why they have been terrible the past twenty years?  And unwillingness to pay young players?  It's a good move for the Pirates and the fan base. 

Since: Jan 7, 2009
Posted on: March 6, 2012 5:32 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Good for them I hope they get a wild card this year

Since: Nov 11, 2007
Posted on: March 6, 2012 5:28 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Cutch is definitely worth this contract.  Plus, it is trade friendly when the Bucs decide on another salary dump.

Since: Mar 6, 2012
Posted on: March 6, 2012 5:13 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Wow, this is "baseball insider" writing this trash?  Lets focus on a couple of hundred ABs, instead of his 1500+ ABs over three years.  Cutch is one of the most consistent hitters in the majors.  He is also one of the best.  That is if you look at more advanced stats such as OPS, OPS+, WAR, etc. 

But go ahead and use a guys batting average while he was in a slump to make a ridiculous point.  Cutch already is one of the best 25 hitters in the majors, at 25.  His power is increasing, as you would expect with someone who has his frame. 

The deal he signed is team friendly, not largesse.  Next time, do everyone a favor and think before you write.

Since: Feb 23, 2009
Posted on: March 6, 2012 5:08 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

its a good signing Pitt has to show they are willing to spend and keep thier howmgrown have to start somewhere

Since: Sep 13, 2006
Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:58 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

That is why Billy Bean is genious

Yeah, I know he is.  I mean, just look at all of those titles that he's won to prove it too.  Baseball people had things all wrong for over 100 years.  Thank God this guy showed them all how it's supposed to be done. 

Since: Mar 9, 2008
Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:48 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Mar 6, 2012
Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:46 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Of course he is worth this contract and it's really not that close. For one thing, you're wrong about his being 3rd among Bruce/Upton/Cutch. McCutchen is clearly a better player than Bruce. Cutch is a centerfielder as opposed to a rightfielder and is a better defender. Cutch's wRC+ in his 3 seasons have been 125,125 and 129. Bruce's career high was 122 (in '10) and his other 3 seasons were 93, 96, and 116. Essentially McCutchen has been better every year than Bruce was at his best. McCutchen's career wOBA is .363 which is equal to Bruce's best season (his career wOBA is.343)Cutch walks 2% more and K's 7% less. McCutchen is a threat on the basepaths and Bruce is not. The only thing Bruce does better than McCutchen is hit home runs. Considering that he plays his home games at GAB, that's not exactly shocking. It's also not a lock to continue. Cutch showed improved power last year and could be a 25 HR player from here on out. You suggested that Cutch's .216 average in the second half is a sign that this could be a risky deal for the Bucs. What you (or your contract expert) fail to mention is his 2nd half numbers were dragged down by an awful September (he hit just .171) where his BAbip was a meager .200, which is unsustainably low.

It's also worth pointing out that Bruce and Upton (who is arguably a better player than McCutchen today) had accomplished less in their careers when they signed their extensions. Comparing the players performance today is inaccurate becasue the other two didn't sign after 2011, they signed after 2010.

Maybe I'm overreacting but there is just no way that you can logically argue (even if you truly believe that Bruce is better because he's 6 months younger) that signing Andrew McCutchen for 6 or 7 years (his age 25-30/31 seasons) for about $9M per season. If McCutchen were to average 1.8-2 WAR per season, he'd be worth 9 mil.

Since: May 16, 2011
Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:44 pm

McCutchen is a great kid, but is he worth $51.5M?

Poeple rip on the Pirates when they don't spend money, and now people are ripping on the Pirates because they are spending money but not giving it to the right players. Hilarious. 

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