NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – So remember that time when Andrew McCutchen reported for spring training in Bradenton, Fla. in February of 2017?
Remember when earlier in the week that seemed implausible?
Well, it seems like that’s happening.
It’s at least the most likely scenario as of 12:05 p.m. today.
As he departed the winter meetings Thursday, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the probability McCutchen remains with the club has increased. He said the intent is to “hold” McCutchen.
While the idea of trading McCutchen was (and remains) a logical path for the Pirates to explore, the Pirates were never going to trade McCutchen just to trade him. They were seeking significant baseball value. This was not a salary dump. This was not Francisco Liriano 2.0.
So when the Washington Nationals and Chicago White Sox agreed on a trade that sent Adam Eaton to Washington on Wednesday evening, the deal effectively eliminated the most obvious team with the need and assets to acquire McCutchen.
Now, it’s a long offseason. There’s still a chance McCutchen is moved.
But Huntington said it was more likely McCutchen would be moved by this point in the offseason, at the end of the meetings, if he was to be traded.
“Our intent coming in here was to have Andrew McCutchen be in our lineup going forward,” Huntington said. “No one changed that. It’s unlikely someone changes that going forward. We’re not going to close the door but we’re not going to be making calls.”
While the Pirates engaged in trade talks with multiple teams regarding McCutchen, no team was willing to meet the Pirates’ price.
“The ask was significant,” Huntington said. “We took calls. We listened. We engaged. Not just with Andrew but with other players on one- and two-year deals. As we will always do, if we find the right move … We’ll move a player.”
At this point I suspect the Pirates’ most likely Opening Day OF is arranged like this: LF Gregory Polanco, CF Starling Marte, RF McCutchen,
McCutchen in right field you ask? Yes, the arm, runners going from first to third would be an issue. But consider this fascinating article from Mike Petreillo on how right field is where McCutchen can maximize his range.
Moreover, Huntington and Clint Hurdle said at the meetings the idea of moving McCutchen to a corner is being discussed. On Wednesday, Hurdle mentioned Torii Hunter’s move from center to right.
Yes, here is some fence mending to do.
Huntington said he did not communicate with McCutchen during trade talks but will reach out to him prior to Pirate Fest this weekend.
McCutchen communicated Wednesday night …
Now feelings are real. McCutchen’s pride/ego is likely bruised. But he’s a professional athlete, and the Pirates were simply acting rationally and logically – not emotionally.
If McCutchen indeed opens next season with the club I’m assuming both parties can agree on this common ground: they will want the best McCutchen has to give.