The Pirates have picked up their club option over outfielder Andrew McCutchen, per a club announcement. He’ll earn $14.5MM in the final year of his contract.
It comes as no surprise that Pittsburgh elected to retain McCutchen rather than paying a $1MM buyout. Stewart would have earned $1.5MM but will instead receive a $250K buyout. LeBlanc will take home a $50K buyout on his $1.25MM option.
McCutchen, 31, turned things around after a tepid start to the 2017 campaign. He ended the year with a .279/.363/.486 batting line with 28 long balls and 11 steals over 650 plate appearances. That didn’t represent a full bounce all the way to back to his prior, MVP-level output, but certainly constituted a turnaround after a worrying 2016 season.
The question remains though, whether the Bucs will end up keeping Cutch’s contract. He’ll be pursue by other organizations over the offseason, with the Pirates weighing a potential infusion of young talent against the loss of a high-quality and still-affordable player. Perhaps there’s still some faint possibility of the sides considering a new extension, but in truth that’s difficult to see happening.
Stewart could end up back in Pittsburgh on a minors deal, but won’t be retained as the backup catcher after turning in a woeful .183/.241/.221 slash line in 2017. The 33-year-old LeBlanc, a soft-tossing southpaw, was perhaps a bit unlucky to post a 4.50 ERA in his 68 frames, but did not show the Pirates enough for his contract to be guaranteed for another year. LeBlanc, who continued to post his typical reverse platoon splits, will have the righty to elect free agency.