Andrew McCutchen Rumors

Quick Hits: Japanese Signees, Phillies, McCutchen

This season will mark the first since 1995 that features no new players from Japan, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby notices. Heading into the offseason, Hiroshima Carp pitcher Kenta Maeda looked like the most likely to make the leap to the Majors, but the Carp decided not to post him. Then infielder Takashi Toritani, who also looked like a candidate to cross the Pacific, re-signed with Hanshin. For the last decade, Japanese players have arrived at a rate of about three per season, with Masahiro Tanaka and Tsuyoshi Wada (who actually signed with the Orioles prior to the 2012 season) making their debuts last year. Here’s more from around the league.

  • Phillies pitchers Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon top the list of players who could be dealt before Opening Day, MLB.com’s Jim Duquette writes. Lee will need to prove he’s healthy after missing time due to an elbow injury last season. Last week, he faced hitters for the first time since July. Duquette lists the Dodgers, Marlins and Blue Jays as possibilities for Papelbon. The reliever has a limited no-trade clause, but last week he expressed interest in pitching for the Blue Jays.
  • Andrew McCutchen‘s current $51.5MM contract with the Pirates, which tops out at a mere $14MM per season before the Bucs get a $14.5MM team option in 2018, is one of the most team-friendly in the game. But that doesn’t mean it’s turned out badly for McCutchen, GM Neal Huntington tells MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “It has worked out well for him. He is a very wealthy young man,” says Huntington. “He has been open about saying that the financial comfort and security freed him up to just go play. He didn’t have to worry about the risk of injury, or the risk of not performing. The contract has been a part of why he became such a great player.” Huntington goes on to point out that teams assume risks when they sign players to long-term deals, and even if a contract results in a player being underpaid, as is the case with McCutchen, he’s free to sign a bigger deal once his contract is over.

Pirates Willing To Consider Extending Andrew McCutchen

The Pirates are willing to consider a significant second extension for star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. There are no active talks at present, but Biertempfel’s sources tell him that the team would be “willing to go to great lengths” to work out a new contract if they engaged McCutchen, even if that meant going into the range of $25MM annually.

Team owner Bob Nutting acknowledged that he hopes McCutchen is a Pirate “for a long, long time.” For his part, McCutchen said that he is not thinking about that possibility but would “look forward to it” if the team opened negotiations.

Of course, there is no pressing impetus to strike a deal. But for the budget-conscious Bucs and an increasingly underpaid McCutchen, it is easy to see how circumstances could line up to create an opportunity to get something done.

On the one hand, Pittsburgh is sitting pretty with respect to contract status. McCutchen’s current deal gives the club control through 2018 while promising him just $38MM in total. That covers three guaranteed seasons as well as a $1MM buyout of a $14.5MM club option, bringing the max payout to an unquestioned bargain of $51.5MM for four years.

Then again, McCutchen is not without his own leverage. He is still just 28 and has been one of the game’s very best players in recent seasons, racking up a .320/.405/.534 slash with 77 home runs and 65 stolen bases over the last three seasons combined. McCutchen has ended each of those campaigns in the top three of the National League MVP vote and took home the award in 2013. All said, he has been valued at better than seven wins above replacement in each of those years.

The net is, as Biertempfel’s colleague Travis Sawchik rightly observed last year, the parties are in a rather analogous situation to the one that led the Rays to strike a second long-term deal with Evan Longoria. While Longoria’s deal was probably even more slanted in his club’s favor — its four years of control remaining included three cheap options — the essential premise seems sound, though Longoria was a few years younger at the time of his signing.


Central Links: McCutchen, Zito, Albers, Herndon

The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune.  The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today.  He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.

Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…



NL Notes: McCutchen, Hamels, Diamondbacks

Pirates star Andrew McCutchen rarely gives long, opinionated interviews, so his lengthy and relatively candid discussion with Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is surprising. McCutchen, who is controlled through 2018, says that he would like to play the rest of his career in Pittsburgh. He also says, however, that the Pirates’ front office needs to do more to provide him with a championship-caliber supporting cast, and he suggests that the Pirates’ platoon arrangement at first base in particular is a problem. “You can have a platoon in the outfield every now and then,” says McCutchen. “Outfield platoons, I understand. But when it comes to the infield, you need that group of guys who are always going to be there.” The Pirates platooned Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez at first in 2014, and Davis, Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez are candidates to play there next season. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The Phillies want “at least three” top prospects, including two who are ready for the big leagues, in return for Cole Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. It’s not currently known who is on Hamels’ limited no-trade list (which he updated at the beginning of the month), but Salisbury suggests that Hamels would have been smart to add the Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers so that he can demand that his new team pick up his 2019 option as a condition of a trade.
  • GM Dave Stewart says the Diamondbacks won’t be bidders for Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields this offseason, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio tweets. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has said that the team will look for starting pitching this offseason. There have been few or no indications that the D-backs plan to pursue top-tier pitchers, however.

Quick Hits: Urias, Braves, Burnett, McCutchen

17-year-old Dodgers lefty Julio Urias wowed observers at the Futures Game, leading to chatter about the possibility that he could make his big-league debut as soon as next year, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes. “This guy’s got the ability to pitch in the big leagues at 18,” says Dodgers scouting director Logan White. That doesn’t mean the Dodgers will promote Urias that soon — he’s currently at Class A+ Rancho Cucamonga, and he’s only pitched 52 1/3 innings because the Dodgers are concerned about overworking him. But his stuff (he can touch 97 MPH) and composure are impressive beyond his years. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Braves badly need lefty bullpen help and particularly like the Red SoxAndrew Miller, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Luis Avilan‘s struggles on Sunday are an example of the problems the Braves have had, O’Brien writes — Avilan entered in a 10-4 game in the eighth and faced three batters, giving up a single and two walks. By the time the inning was over, it was 10-7, and a blowout had suddenly become a save situation. Miller, who has struck out 14.4 batters per nine innings for Boston this season, would be a big upgrade. The Braves also like James Russell and Wesley Wright of the Cubs, O’Brien writes.
  • The Braves should release second baseman Dan Uggla, writes Mark Bradley of the Journal-Constitution. The $19MM the Braves owe Uggla through 2015 is a “sunken cost,” and the Braves won’t be able to find a team willing to trade for him. Uggla is hitting an execrable .162/.241/.231 in 145 plate appearances this season. Uggla received only 15 plate appearances in June and only has three so far in July. The Braves also suspended him for a game on Sunday for being late arriving at Wrigley Field Saturday.
  • A.J. Burnett wants to stay with the Phillies, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. “I’m not a guy who looks for an out or wants to get out because things aren’t going the right way,” says Burnett. “If that happens, then it happens, but I’m not looking to move on. This is my team.” Burnett has a limited no-trade clause, and says he isn’t sure how he would respond if the Phillies asked him to waive it.
  • The rash of pitcher injuries this season might affect the salaries of free-agents-to-be like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Recent injuries to Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia and the questionable or disappointing contracts of pitchers like Justin Verlander and Johan Santana show how risky long-term deals for star pitchers can be. Scherzer and Lester have performed well this season, but other pitchers’ recent histories might affect the market this winter.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington wants Andrew McCutchen to be a Pirate for life, although he’s realistic about how difficult McCutchen will be to keep, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “We truly hope Andrew McCutchen retires as a Pirate. That is going to be incredibly challenging to do, but that is our long-term goal,” says Huntington. The Bucs already control McCutchen through 2018 at bargain rates — his yearly salary through his age-31 season never exceeds $14.5MM.

NL Central Notes: McCutchen, Brewers, Cards, Wada

Earlier today, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk posted divisional roundups for the NL East and AL Central. Now, let’s take a look at the news and notes from the NL Central:


Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen Win MVP Awards

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen were respectively announced as the American League and National League Most Valuable Players, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America.

This is the second consecutive year that Cabrera has captured the MVP trophy, making it three years in a row that a Detroit player has won the award after Justin Verlander's MVP year in 2011.  While Cabrera's 2013 season lacked the history of his 2012 Triple Crown campaign, he achieved another unique treble by leading the league in every slash line category (.348/.442/.636) and also hitting 44 homers and 137 RBI. 

Cabrera captured 23 of 30 first-place votes from the writers and finished second on the other seven ballots.  Angels outfielder Mike Trout was Cabrera's runner-up for the second straight year, claiming five first-place votes and 19 second-place votes.  Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson each received one first place vote and finished third and fourth overall on the ballot, with Yankees second baseman (and free agent) Robinson Cano finishing fifth.

McCutchen's race to the MVP Award wasn't nearly as close, as he captured a whopping 28 of 30 first-place votes.  McCutchen was an all-around threat, hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, stealing 27 bases, scoring 97 runs and providing a strong (+8.4 UZR.150) glove in center field — he generated 8.2 WAR according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference.  He becomes the first Pirate to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992.

Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second in the balloting despite not receiving any first-place votes.  Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received those other two firsts and finished in third place, followed by teammate Matt Carpenter in fourth and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in fifth place.


Quick Hits: Melky Cabrera, Johan Santana, Bobby V

On this day in baseball history in 1957, Giants president Horace Stoneham violated baseball's protocol for announcements about teams relocating to new cities by failing to wait until after the World Series. Stoneham cited declining attendance to the press as to why the Giants were headed to San Francisco to play their home games for the following season. The team's board of directors approved the move by the vote of 8-1 with M. Donald Grant casting the lone dissenting vote. Grant would later go on to become the chairman of the expansion Mets

Here's the latest news and headlines from around the league…

  • Melky Cabrera's suspension ensures that the beleaguered outfielder won't see the field again until the playoffs, but that doesn't mean he can't win the NL batting title, writes Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com. Doyel suggests MLB commissioner Bud Selig should intervene and prevent Cabrera from receiving the award if he finishes the season with the highest batting average in the league. Andrew McCutchen currently leads the NL with a .356 average entering Sunday's action as compared to Cabrera's .346 mark with 43 games to go.
  • The Mets may have a trade partner for Johan Santana this offseason if the left-hander can regain the strong form he's occasionally displayed this season, opines Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino looks at the Dodgers as a possible fit for the former two-time Cy Young winner given their newly-minted deep wallets. With Santana guaranteed over $25MM next season, the Mets may elect to keep their struggling ace rather than pay $20MM to watch him pitch for another team.
  • Bobby Valentine never had a chance as the manager of the Red Sox given the state of the franchise from top to bottom, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. When Boston brought Valentine aboard to replace Terry Francona this offseason, it was getting a brilliant baseball mind who could identify talent at an expert level but was prone to a soap opera from time to time. As Heyman puts it, the Red Sox never should have hired Valentine if they were just going to cut his vocal chords mere months later in the wake of the Kevin Youkilis incident.

Pirates Notes: McCutchen, Walker

The Pirates have officially announced their contract extension with Andrew McCutchen, which makes Neil Walker the next candidate for a long-term deal. Here are some links pertaining to the Pirates… 

  • McCutchen turned down two contract offers before agreeing to terms with the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
  • The Pirates figured that Walker would be easier to sign than McCutchen earlier on in the negotiating process. A source close to the Walker-Pirates talks tells Biertempfel that a lot of work needs to be done on a possible agreement.
  • It sounds like the Pirates won't work out an extension with Walker in the immediate future, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington said Pirates fans don’t have to worry that the club will flip McCutchen for prospects, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. “We are now well beyond the talent-accumulation phase,” Huntington said. “We're into the championship, Major League team-building phase." Huntington also pointed out that in baseball there’s no LeBron James or Sidney Crosby to come in and save a franchise more or less on his own. 
  • Heyman writes that he doesn't consider McCutchen a $51.5MM player yet, though Pirates people expect him to become one.

Pirates Extend Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen is officially the face of the Pirates through at least 2017.  The team announced his new six-year contract today, which reportedly guarantees $51.5MM and has a seventh year club option.  Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the salary breakdown.

McCutchen's contract buys out his final pre-arbitration year, all three arbitration years, and a pair of free agent seasons with a club option for another. The Pirates now control their young superstar through the 2017 or 2018, having previously controlled him through 2015.

McCutchen

The 25-year-old, represented by Steve Hammond of Aegis Sports Management, has just two fewer days of service time than Jay Bruce did when he signed nearly the same deal — six years and $51MM. Likewise, Justin Upton had less than three years of service time when the Diamondbacks locked him up for six years and $51.25MM. The Pirates, like the Reds, were able to secure a club option, which Arizona failed to do in Upton's case.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined McCutchen's case last May, noting how he'd played significantly more games than Upton and deserved at least as much money.

Pittsburgh selected McCutchen with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. He debuted as a 22-year-old in 2009, and has since tallied 420 big league games while hitting a strong .276/.365/.458 with 51 homers and 78 steals. Ultimate zone rating hasn't been kind to McCutchen's defense thus far in his career, but he did post a positive mark for the first time in 2011, checking in with a UZR/150 of +3.3.

The Pirates have long been interested in locking McCutchen up, and now should have two-thirds of their outfield set for many years. Last August, the team secured a multi-year deal with Jose Tabata as well, inking a six-year guarantee with club options that run through the 2019 season.

As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, general manager Neal Huntington has architected multi-year deals in the past for Tabata, Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez, Paul Maholm, Matt Capps, and Ian Snell, though none of those deals were anywhere near this magnitude. McCutchen's guarantee falls just shy of Jason Kendall's record for the largest contract in franchise history; Kendall received $60MM over six years back in November of 2000.

Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first broke news of McCutchen's contract Sunday night.  Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.