Andrew McCutchen Rumors

Extension Candidate: Andrew McCutchen

When the Reds inked Jay Bruce to a six-year extension earlier this month, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review took the opportunity to examine how the contract could affect Andrew McCutchen. While the Pirates have not yet discussed a multiyear extension with their center fielder, Biertempfel suggested that McCutchen's value would be similar to Bruce's.

The more appropriate comparison for McCutchen might actually be the player whose contract Bruce's appeared to be modeled after – Justin Upton and his six-year, $51.25MM extension. When Upton signed the extension last winter, he had posted a career slash line of .272/.350/.485 in 1157 plate appearances. At the time, McCutchen acknowledged his track record in the majors wasn't as strong as that of the Diamondbacks' outfielder, but after a strong 2010 season, the gap has closed. McCutchen's current .286/.365/.459 line, in 1146 plate appearances, matches up well with Upton's pre-2010 numbers. Upton exhibited a little more power (43 HR to McCutchen's 28), and played better defense, according to UZR. However, McCutchen plays the more challenging position in the outfield, and is more dangerous on the basepaths (55 SB to Upton's 23).

While Upton, Bruce, and McCutchen are all comparable talents, performance and potential aren't the only factors the Pirates will take into consideration when deciding whether to extend McCutchen. One difference between Upton's and Bruce's deals involves service time – Upton had acculumated just over two years of major league time when he inked his extension, meaning the first of the six years was a pre-arbitration season. As such, his contract covers just two free agent years, while Bruce's covers three, with a club option for the fourth.

Heading into the 2011 campaign, McCutchen has racked up one year and 123 days of service time, which poses an interesting dilemma for both the Pirates and McCutchen's representation. This fall, Bruce was among the group of players who became arbitration eligible early by achieving Super Two status; this year's cutoff was just two years and 122 days of service time. If the cutoff is similar in 2011, McCutchen could become arbitration eligible as early as 2012, which would have a significant impact on Pittsburgh's payroll going forward. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the 24-year-old's status, the two sides may choose to wait for some clarity before seriously discussing a long-term deal.

The more pressing question than the issue of service time though is whether the Pirates will even be willing to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $50MM in a multiyear extension. Players who have roamed the Pittsburgh outfield in recent years, such as Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, and Xavier Nady, have all eventually been traded before their salaries became exorbitant.

Such an extension for McCutchen wouldn't be entirely unprecedented though. Ten years ago, the Pirates agreed to a six-year, $60MM deal with Jason Kendall, the largest contract in team history. And while they haven't committed nearly that much money to a player in recent years, the club has exhibited a willingness to spend some cash; they've committed big money on the amateur draft and, as MLBTR's transaction tracker shows, have added a handful of major league free agents this month. Perhaps, with youngsters like Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker now playing at the big league level, and with plenty of promising minor league talent on the way, Pittsburgh would be inclined to keep their core intact by locking up McCutchen, the relative veteran of the group.

For now, the bet here is that the Pirates wait to verify whether or not McCutchen will become a Super Two. Regardless of when he becomes eligible for arbitration, the 24-year-old will be under team control through 2015, which should give the two sides plenty of time to talk.

Odds & Ends: Rivera, Mets, Bruce, Orioles, Dodgers

Links for Sunday….

Odds & Ends: Guerrier, McCutchen, Blue Jays, Punto

As the baseball world says goodbye to Cubs great Ron Santo, here are some news tidbits heading into the weekend…

Pirates Rumors: Correia, Accardo, Duchscherer

4:05pm: The Pirates are interested in Kevin Correia, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

3:25pm: The Pirates are aggressively pursuing Accardo, according to Kovacevic (on Twitter).

2:51pm: The latest on the Pirates:

Huntington On Rotation, Doumit, McCutchen

Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington describes the market for available starters as "thin," but says the Pirates "need" to upgrade their rotation. Huntington told MLBTR that he is mindful of pitching prospects such as Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia who are rising through the Pirates system. But they won't prevent him from offering multi-year deals to free agents.

"We're not opposed to multi-year deals for the right player," Huntington said. "But what we can't do is vastly overpay in terms of years and/or dollars just to get somebody … to make ourselves feel better in November. We've got to pay players for what they're going to do, not what they've done."

The Pirates don't have a distinct preference for left-handers or right-handers. Ideally, they'd get a pitcher who can strike people out, but as Huntington points out, every other team wants just that. Recent reports suggest the Pirates are interested in former Rockies lefties Jeff Francis and Jorge de la Rosa

Former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, now the Pirates' skipper, has not yet discussed Ryan Doumit's 2011 role with Huntington in detail. At this point, Huntington says the Pirates can see him filling a number of roles in 2011.

"We've got the ability to have him catch some; he can be the complement to Chris Snyder; he's got the ability with some Spring Training work to maybe go play some at first and then also the opportunity to go play out in right field. So he's got some versatility," Huntington said.

Huntington declined to comment specifically on Andrew McCutchen, but he acknowledged that the Pirates generally have interest in giving top players security with extensions that cover some free agent seasons. 

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Gonzalez, Pirates, Elias

On this date way back in 1976, the Mariners and Blue Jays each selected 30 players in the expansion draft. Seattle drafted outfielder Ruppert Jones from the Royals with the first pick, then Toronto grabbed the versatile Bob Bailor from the Orioles with the second pick. The full results of the expansion draft can be found here.

We had to do some expanding of our own this week – get ready for what I'm certain is the largest BBWI in MLBTR history…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

2005 Draft Throwdown

While dreams are coming true for hundreds of high school and college players this week, let's compare the paths of some 2005 first round draft picks. Nothing is more interesting than seeing how teams did choosing players at the same position. In a draft, it is the closest teams come to the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Meanwhile, those lists haunt fans' memories for years to come.

  • Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) vs. Ryan Braun (Brewers): This battle between Zimmerman, picked fourth, and Braun, picked fifth, was to be a test of hot corner prowess. But while Zimmerman has excelled at the position, winning a Gold Glove in 2009 and grading well under more advanced defensive metrics, Braun settled in left field after proving to be a disastrous fielder at third base. So far, Braun has a .931 to .836 edge in OPS, but with Zimmerman putting up an .888 in 2009 and at .986 so far in 2010, that gap may well have disappeared. Moving forward, the edge goes to Zimmerman, a terrific hitter, though a notch below Braun, but a far more valuable defensive player. Both teams won here, though.
  • Cameron Maybin (Tigers) vs. Andrew McCutchen (Pirates): These high school center fielders went back-to-back, with Maybin going tenth and McCutchen going 11th. The early returns suggest that the Tigers made a poor choice here, though they ultimately packaged Maybin in a deal for Miguel Cabrera, so they're not exactly complaining. McCutchen has hit since he arrived in Pittsburgh last season, and a 23-year-old with an .847 OPS in his first 733 major league plate appearances stands an awfully good chance of being an elite player for years to come. Maybin is still immensely talented, and could turn into a star- but McCutchen already is one. Pirates win- how often do you get to read that?
  • Craig Hansen (Red Sox) vs. Joey Devine (Braves): This throwdown is a lesson in the perils of college pitchers. They seem like sure things, compared to high schoolers, and from the start, the Red Sox and Braves thought they had their ninth-innings mapped out for years to come. Hansen, drafted 26th out of St. John's, has yet to find command at the major league level, with 63 walks against 70 strikeouts in 93.2 innings. The right-hander was one of the moving parts in the three-team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles. Hansen's troubles were baffling, until the discovery of a degenerative nerve condition that has his career in doubt. Devine, chosen 27th, got traded to Oakland for Mark Kotsay, so Atlanta didn't benefit much from choosing him, either. The Athletics got a fantastic 2008 out of Devine- a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings with 49 strikeouts. Tommy John surgery kept him out for 2009, but he is currently on track to return to Oakland by the end of June. Winner here? Clearly, the Athletics.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Mauer, McCutchen, Guzman

On this date back in 1974, the Red Sox released Orlando Cepeda and Luis Aparicio, both future Hall of Famers. Cepeda, then 36, signed with Kansas City and retired after the season as a .297/.350/.499 career hitter with 379 home runs. Aparicio, 39 at the time, never played again following his release, and finished his career as a .262/.311/.343 hitter and with a reputation as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball history.

Here are some links from around the baseball blogosphere…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

Pirates Notes: Vazquez, Tabata, Alvarez

Let's check out some Pirates-related tidbits courtesy of's Jenifer Langosch..

  • With Ramon Vazquez on the trading block, Langosch stresses that any talk of him being Texas-bound is merely conjecture at this point.  Furthermore, if they do move him, they are unlikely to get much back and may have to eat some of his $2MM salary.  However, Pittsburgh might be willing to move the 33-year-old for next to nothing.
  • One reader asks if the Pirates are considering locking up their young prospects, like Milwaukee did with Ryan Braun or like Tampa Bay did with Evan Longoria.  Langosch says that the Pirates will wait until players like Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, and Pedro Alvarez establish themselves in the majors to open up discussions.
  • Speaking of Alvarez, Langosch expects the Pirates to hold off on bringing him up to the big leagues.  Pittsburgh delayed Andrew McCutchen's promotion last season in order to give him more seasoning in the minors and, in all likelihood, to extend his time under team control.

No Extension Talks Yet For McCutchen

The Pirates have yet to approach center fielder Andrew McCutchen about a long-term extension, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Team president Frank Coonelly explained that while McCutchen is the type of player they'd want to lock up, "the earlier you go, the more risk you take on."  McCutchen has only 108 big league games under his belt.

McCutchen told Kovacevic that "it would be cool" to sign a Justin Upton-like extension.  But as the player noted, Upton has significantly more time in the Majors.  I'm not sure he's the right comparable anyway.

McCutchen won't even be arbitration-eligible until after the 2012 season.  The model for an extension might come from this group of signed center fielders: Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino, Franklin Gutierrez, Curtis Granderson, Nate McLouth, Chris Young, and David DeJesus.  How much will it cost the Pirates to buy out McCutchen's three arbitration years?  That might depend on how much power he displays.  But the players listed gave up their arbitration years at prices ranging from $8.1MM for DeJesus to $17.25MM for Granderson.  Gutierrez, signed most recently, gets $11.5MM.

Kovacevic's article touches on McLouth, as the way he was extended and traded months later was not received well.  Coonelly says that the team's actions will gain the fans' trust.  He also said:

We can never say never, but I will say again that the days of us needing to move players in order to get multiple players in return to rebuild the system, those are over.