Here’s the latest from PNC Park…
- Andrew McCutchen is under contract for two more seasons and the Pirates have a $14.5MM club option on him for 2018 that is right now a lock to be exercised. Even with up to three years of control remaining, however, ESPN’s Buster Olney (subscription required) believes the Bucs should open negotiations with McCutchen’s agents this spring in order to give both sides some idea if an extension is even possible. The Pirates would have to offer a deal well beyond their usual comfort zone just to have a chance at locking McCutchen up past his age-31 season, and McCutchen would have to be willing to accept something below market value. If there’s no common ground, Olney suggests Pittsburgh should start seeing what they could get for McCutchen in a trade, perhaps even as early as this summer.
- Mark Melancon’s $10MM projected arbitration salary has made him a trade candidate this offseason, though Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wonders if the Pirates have saved enough money in other transactions to be able to afford keeping the closer in 2016. With the Bucs already suffering notable losses in the rotation and infield, Sawchik argues that the club could retrench around its excellent bullpen rather than trading from an area of strength.
- How good, in fact, has Pittsbugh’s bullpen been? Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan notes that Melancon and Tony Watson were the two best relievers in baseball from 2013-15 as per the Win Probability Added (WPA) metric. The 2015 Pirates bullpen had a collective 11.8 WPA, the second-highest single-year total in history dating back to 1974. Watson is also arbitration-eligible this winter, and MLBTR projects him to earn $4.6MM in his second time through the arb process.