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Andrew McCutchen’s pulse-pounding vibe

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The Pirates’ six-year, $51.5 million extension for center fielder Andrew McCutchen, expected to be announced tomorrow, probably was not the colossal step for the franchise that most will immediately think.

But it still was big, and the reverberations will be felt for quite a while.

Let’s start with the “not as big” part: For years now, the general misconception about McCutchen’s status is that he was constantly on the edge of leaving through free agency. Emailers, tweeters, talk-show callers all fussed over signing McCutchen right away so he doesn’t leave. This, of course, was wrong. The Pirates entered this year owning McCutchen’s rights through arbitration for the next four seasons.

That’s why neither side treated these year-plus talks with any real urgency until they were completed. They often went months a time without even peripheral communication.

So, the real issue here is the two years beyond that, plus the 2018 club option worth $14.75 million.

Therein lies the prize.

Sports executives call these “years of control,” and they love them. The team knows it can have the player if it wants, and it knows way in advance how to set its budget. If you don’t think that has value, ask the Penguins’ Ray Shero. He’s been building his ultra-talented roster off that principle since taking over. It’s why he’s not sweating over Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal set to expire in two summers.

Neal Huntington’s gain here is primarily that certainty, but also much more: Here, finally, he has that player, that franchise-level commitment that he can show not only to the public but also within the business. He can sell it to free agents skeptical about the Pirates (nearly everyone), he can sell it to other players he’d like to keep (hello, Neil Walker), and he and the developmental people can even use it as motivation all through the minors. I’ve heard Jeff Banister talk about waiting for someone like that for years. That someone is here.

Best of all, of course, it wraps up a burgeoning baseball player, a pulse-pounding performer, a charismatic kid, for Pittsburgh fans to watch.

For years to come.

And when was the last time you could say that?

Comments

  1. JoeBucco says:

    There’s the baseball focus we were waiting for!

    Have to disagree with your first sentence though, DK. It may not have been a colossal step for MOST franchises. But we all needed to see our franchise have the will to get this done.

    DK: Columns don’t function by seasons, Joe. Same reason I was writing the occasional Pirates column in December. They go by topics or sometimes by nothing other than a whim. I actually try to maintain a steady focus on ALL of our teams ALL year for this purpose.

  2. PhillyJake says:

    It’s good to see Mr. Nutting back up his rhetoric with a contract. But, this is why it’s huge:

    “So, the real issue here is the two years beyond that, plus the 2018 club option worth $14.75 million.

    Therein lies the prize.”

    I wasn’t worried about Cutch walking just yet, nor did I see the urgency you spoke of others having. But to see them go into free agent years is huge. I’m pretty sure they didn’t do it with Jason Bay. Kendall perhaps?

    I think this can help with free agents next off season.

    DK: Kendall was six and $60 million in 2000, so yeah, that ate up free-agent years.

  3. Billy Baloney says:

    Dejan – Finish this sentence…

    This is the best Pirates signing since _______.

    DK: Jose Tabata. Epic steal.

  4. Curt says:

    I am the first to admit being a cynic and waiting for the day that Cutch gets traded for a bunch of minor leaguers for organizational depth.

    I am glad I was wrong and look forward to watching McCutchen for the next several years. This seems like a dream, we actually locked up one of our great young players!

  5. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Good insight, DK. “Hope you git to feelin’ better” as they say here in KY. There is a ray of hope we may see 82 wins, then 92 as Groat says.

    DK: Condition isn’t improving much at all, actually, but thanks, John. This thing is weird. Been six days like this, nothing at all has changed since the first.

  6. Lee says:

    Curt……I, too, never thought they’d sign Cutch. I am glad I am wrong. Now if only Pedro will prove me wrong.

    ==========

    DK……great article on the NFL/Saints bounty and great article here on Cutch. As a newspaper guy, you are Barry Bonds, with a better personality. Plus, you don’t do ‘roids (just caffeine) :) :)

    Foo

    …….

    DK: I appreciate that about the bounty piece, Foo. Heavy feedback on it today.

  7. Catfish293 says:

    The FO isn’t deviating from the plan, now they need a little luck to get it going… looks like 3-4 years with Allie, Cole, Tabata and Cutch as cornerstones.

  8. Sarcastic Sword says:

    I never thought that Nutting would ever “write the check” as Michael Keaton has said…

    I can criticize but I need to say kudos now…I didnt think Cutch would be here beyond his arbitration yrs.

    I will now lift my self-imposed moratorium on spending money on anything Pirates including a ticket. They did what I never thought they would do.

    Good job

  9. JohninOshkosh says:

    I remember when Cutch first came up they had a road trip to Houstan, and he tripled. It was the fastest I had ever seen a human being run outside of a track event.

    Very happy day.

  10. Curt says:

    I am with you sarcastic. I live near D.C. and told my wife I was not going to pay to watch the Pirates on t.v. this year or go to any games. Might have to re-think that now! Lol.

  11. Drew71 says:

    “Here, finally, he has that player, that franchise-level commitment that he can show not only to the public but also within the business. He can sell it to free agents skeptical about the Pirates (nearly everyone), he can sell it to other players he’d like to keep (hello, Neil Walker)…”

    Nailed it. In the perception-is-reality world of MLB, this signing is hugely important, and you nailed it, Dejan.

  12. Ed says:

    For this particular franchise, especially with many, including myself, believing that McCutchen would just get traded away, like the others, when he got too expensive, it is a huge signing.

    A great day for the Pirates.

  13. Andy says:

    I am so happy to hear this news. But also not entirely confident. McLouth got wrapped up with a long term deal as a cornerstone of the franchise….And then…

  14. pattonbb says:

    More than anything, I’m glad Cutch wanted to stay in Pittsburgh. It’s been a long time since we had a player of his caliber, even longer since we had one that wanted to stay here for the long haul. I think this signing helps the ball club on several levels, some of which we haven’t see yet.

    Congratulations to everyone involved. Now lets play ball!

  15. Curt says:

    McLouth is nowhere near the talent McCutchen currently is and we have no idea what his ceiling is as well. McLouth had one outstanding season.
    I think its two different situations.
    I am with you though, great news!

  16. dave says:

    Commitment. You heard Roger Penske use that word several times while explaining his switch from Dodge to Ford for next year. He didn’t see any commitment from Dodge. Up until this off season and the spurned offers from front line pitchers and the Bedard and Burnett signings Cutch wasn’t seeing the Pirates’ committment to winning. After this, you could hear a difference in Andrew’s attitude toward the Pirates in his quotes. Commitment. He now had proof that the PBC IS committed to winning and now he’s willing to pin his future success on THIS organization. Good for you, Andrew. Good for the PBC. And good for Pirates fans everywhere.

  17. TJA says:

    This is a Happy Monday in Pittsburgh!

  18. LuckyNKentucky says:

    This is an excellent move in many ways. I agree with pattonbb about him staying in Pgh. He’s a top-notch person from an excellent family backround, not some thug that has only himself in mind. Great job on both parts!

  19. Jandy says:

    @ Dave ~ that COMMITMENT word is key here, I agree with you. I also have to make an observation here, that “Cutch” is showing some LEADERSHIP in agreeing to his deal. I LIKE IT!

  20. patrick says:

    I recall early in the summer of 2010, in misery, lying flat on my back “recovering” from a liver resection and trying to pay attention to another awful Pirate game. At some point, Neil Walker got a key hit and I recall thinking “this kids the real deal,” if there’s hope for the Pirates, there’s hope for me. May the power of the McCutchen deal weave some magic for your condition!

  21. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    I like it…..Someone said it above, this FO is doing what they said they would. EVERYBODY questioned as to whether they would sign AMac long term and said that when they did, then we could start taking NH and Co. seriously.

    I thought something was coming since they hadn’t announced a contract with AMac yet…at least I was hoping.

    Kudos goes to this GM an FO staff……until their next gaff….ha ha

  22. JMB says:

    This signing def gets me excited about baseball. I usually criticize the FO, but they did a great job with this deal.

    Congrats to Cutch for the well deserved payday, and congrats to the FO for a good deal that also included a nice amount of $$$ to a fan favorite / future superstar.

    I wonder if “Wrong Way” Frankie’s drive had anything to do with the Pirates upping their offer $10m? This gets FC off the talk circuit, and it puts the onus back on the players.

    Either way, I am thrilled by the deal!

  23. grandpagreg says:

    Can’t wait to see him and Marte play together.

  24. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    JMB- Why in the world would Frank’s issue would have ANYTHING to do with this signing? To get the talk about his incident out of the way?? That’s a waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy big stretch.

  25. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    Good call on Marte tag team. NEXT year’s outfield will consist of Marte, Cutch, and Tabata with Presley being the 4th OF? I think I can handle that.

  26. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Ryan,
    You’re right. No reason to rush Marte now, unless Presley and McLouth are injured. The days of premature call-ups should be over at almost every position except maybe behind the plate and not even there, really.

  27. CDBrewer says:

    Sorry to hear the bug still has you DK. 3 weeks ago for the wife, 2 weeks ago for me…1 week each.

    Here is my question: How much credibility does this buy us with FA’s? Like, would Oswalt talk to us now? He might be the wrong example, but is it a matter of still overpaying for being the Pirates, but at least getting an audience, or is it almost like being a normal big league club?

    I love the signing, but THAT is what matters come offseason and trade deadline (I didn’t want Beltran though, he can go collect while on the DL elsewhere).

  28. CDBrewer says:

    Oh, and DK, you will give us a prediction column on the upcoming season at the end of the month, right?

    When are you slated to go down to Bradenton?

    DK: I’ll be in Bradenton March 13, and I’ll be thinking solely about baseball upon arrival. (Well, mostly.)

  29. MrB says:

    Well, it’s nice to actually feel positive from a move by the current Pirate Management. I really didn’t think that they would do this. Hopefully, there’s more to come in time.

  30. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    @Lucky- The one thing this FO DOES NOT do, is premature call ups. Though I would suspect that he’ll be ready for next season.

  31. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Ryan,
    The only times I’d disagree on that are Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez. I know, Alvarez had decent numbers the last 2 months of his call-up year, but last year proved out. His numbers in AAA weren’t that impressive that year to be called up. I think it hurt him. Lincoln came up at the same time as Strasburg and Dave Kirby messed him up and he’s still trying to stay there on a permanent basis. Otherwise, I agree with you.

  32. Nate says:

    Dear Pedro: Start performing and you’ll get paid, too.

  33. JAL says:

    Of course this does not change the current team but it does show part of the future. It can have some affect on free agents as they now know the best player on team will be around for a few seasons. Now if they go out and have a good season that will add to it. Most free agents want to see stable and rising or already near the top.

  34. Smitty55 says:

    Kudos to both sides. What way to start a wintry Monday. Also kudos to the commentors here. On another site, not to be named lol they are looking for ways to poke holes in the signing. For myself, I know it won;t affect this year’s results, but it sure adds a warm glow to my view of the future. Also thx Dejan, for your tireless efforts. You’re greatly appreciated.

  35. Shaun says:

    While it’s true the Pirates had Andrew under control through arbitration for the next few years, there was a fear that the cost would become so high that the Pirates would trade him. The fact that this uncertainty is gone is huge, plus the two free agency years. I’m impressed this got done so soon.

  36. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    @lucky- I see your arguements on that and dont disagree athough, Pedro was tearing up AAA at the time of his callup. Last year was a fluke year, I hope.

    Lincoln on the other hand is a weird situation. Will this guy be a starter ever? I dont know. I would like to think that he would be a good #2 or #3 type of starter, but its just too hard to predict.

  37. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    @Smitty, I dont even go back to that “other” site anymore…its just not worth your blood pressure to listen to those that think they know the game and prove time and time again, that they do not.

  38. Ken says:

    Finally a Pirates Jersey I can purchase and know with some certainty that he won’t be playing for a new team before I get it home from the store.

    But seriously, this is a huge moment for this club and the fans. For the first time in recent memory, a meaningful contract is tendered to a meaningful player. Someone who is universally thought of as a asset to the team, rather than a has-been or a never-was.

    The Pirates now have their Sidney Crosby, their Hines Ward (ooh…too soon? Love ya #86)… safely under contract for the years that they have claimed matter most. Walker should be next.

  39. radio wave says:

    This couldn’t, wouldn’t have happened if JR were still here. CH has to get partial credit on this. He is changing the culture of this team.
    I wonder if this signing will increase ticket sales?

  40. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    Whoa Whoa Whoa Radio Wave…..last time I checked, CH doesnt write the checks. Let’s not tear up JR anymore, I think he’s had enough.

    Give all the credit where credit is due….this FO staff.

    Though I do think CH has helped in changing the culture of this team, he doesn’t sign these players and probably doesn’t have much say in contracts.

  41. scapper says:

    “Pulse-pounding performer.” Boy, does that sum him up well. Seen a lot of great Pirate players (pretty much missed Clemente) over the years, and McCutcheon is a bring-you-out-of-your-seat type of player that you just can’t take your eyes off. Last Pirate to make me feel like that was David Eugene Parker, Great to know Cutch is locked up for a number of years.

    (Whew, I just won a knock-down battle with the cynic in me, who wanted to finish that last sentence with, “…locked up UNTIL THE NEXT JULY FIRE SALE.” But I refrained.)

  42. JAL says:

    McCutchen terms: $1.25M bonus. 2012: $500k 2013: $4.5M 2014: $7.25M 2015: $10M 2016: $13M 2017: $14M 2018: 1M buyout or $14.75M club option

  43. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    JAL- I like those breakdowns…..and the plan is by the time he’s making that “big” money, Pirates will be in contention and have some serious pitching arms in the bigs with him….

  44. JohninOshkosh says:

    This day may mark a turning point for Neal Huntington.

    Having lived many years watching the team residing at Miller Park do business, it is striking how Neal Huntington appears to be following the Doug Melvin business model. For several years the Brewers played in a decrepit ballpark within the institutionalized restraints on small market clubs and strung years of consecutive losing seasons together. Then they built a fabulous yard and hired Melvin. He built the team around homegrown talent (Hardy, Weeks, Braun and Fielder). Those players developed at roughly the same time, and Melvin got a contract extension on the franchise’s most popular player before he could put up MVP numbers and extract a lottery sized ransom at contract negotiations. Then, when the talent gelled and started to produce, Melvin was able to trade prospects for legitimate major league players(LaPorta for Sabathia; Lawrie for Marcum, etc.) The result has been two playoff appearances in four years, including playing for the National League Pennant last year.

    The beloved Pirates have their new ballpark. They ousted their former massively ineffective front office. They have drafted and nurtured a home grown core of talent (Tabata, Walker, Alvarez and McCutchen). Today, they signed their most popular player, perhaps before he has an MVP season.

    Huntington’s legacy will be cemented in whether that homegrown talent gels and produces. Most importantly, it will be secured only if he has the steely resolve to trade well regarded prospects for players that can help them compete when the team is in contention to win.

    I used to dismiss Melvin because of his aw shucks congenial Canadian disposition until he pulled the trigger on those trades. The question now is whether Neal can change the button down, I’ll take a Diet Pepsi with my sandwich, image I have of him now. Today is not the beginning of the end but, perhaps, it is the end of the beginning.

  45. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    Totally agree John, I add the Reds to that equation as well.

  46. Jandy says:

    OshKosh said: “Today is not the beginning of the end but, perhaps, it is the end of the beginning.” Wow, I like the sound of that, seriously! Great way to put it!

  47. JohninOshkosh says:

    Credit has to go to Sir Winston Churchill, Jandy

  48. JRay3 says:

    A moment that all Pirate fans can be truly excited about. All the naysayers for the moment can be quieted with this signing, a drafted, developed in-house player that is most certainly a part of the solution of turning this team back around. Between an improved minor league system that ranks four players in the Top 60 prospects of the game and now two long term deals with core players the message can be visibly seen to others in the organization, the fans and baseball that some vision is being carried out.

    @ radio wave – one can hope a signing like this inspires an increase in ticket sales as the organization made a huge commitment. Even though a Bucs fan living here in AZ, I know I am looking forward to seeing the team in its April visit to Chase Field.

    Now let’s get our first spring training win tonight!

  49. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Good one, Sir John in Oshkosh!

  50. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    Can we just get on with the real games already!!!!!

  51. CDBrewer says:

    This is not meant to be rain on the parade, I agree this is a huge moment for a bunch of reasons, but…

    If Alvarez doesn’t turn it around, do we have enough offense to still be competitive by year 6?

    Cutch is fantastic, but he needs protection, or somebody to protect (and while PRNW is a fine piece, he isn’t that guy).

    Again, thrilled, but this makes Pedro’s year even more significant, if that was possible.

  52. JAL says:

    Anyone in the DC Metro area can se tonight’s game on MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) Available in DC and parts of Maryland and Virginia.

  53. scapper says:

    Thanks, JAL! I’ll be checking it out during Pens breaks. Had no idea they’d be on MASN.

  54. JohninOshkosh says:

    Can some techie explain something to me about this site. I click on CDBrewer’s name and I get his Health site. In the past I have been taken to Eric Bowser’s twitter page, Joe Bucco’s blog, and so forth. But, often, I click on a name and I get the Trib’s homepage. Is this a copyright thing or what? Just wondering.

  55. Craig Brewer says:

    Not to get to far off topic but Yahoo is reporting Syracuse has had some violations of its own drug policy. Report goes back to 2001.
    How much can Boeheim survive?
    The ballboy issue, the academic rumors around DC and then Melo, and now this…

    Knight might have been a terrible role model, even a bad guy, but I never got the feeling his players were dirty or he would cheat.

  56. Craig Brewer says:

    @ John,

    The people who link to the Trib might have a blog through the Trib (?)…
    My best guess.

  57. JAL says:

    scapper

    They are on because MASN covers the Orioles

  58. JAL says:

    JohninOshkosh

    It is whatever the poster links their name to. Most of us have not made our name a link so clicking has no effect.

  59. JAL says:

    I just put baseball reference in the website section (Name E-mail, Website) of mine

  60. JAL says:

    Now I took it out

  61. JohninOshkosh says:

    JAL-

    I get that but sometimes I click on the highlighted name and I get the Trib’s homepage (unless all those people are putting the Trib’s homepage as their website).

  62. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    @CD- I think there is no question that Pedro needs to come around.

    I personally see Pedro as a .250/30-40/100 type of hitter. I’m good with that. I dont really see him being a guy that hits for average because he will still have a large number of K’s. I see Pedro and think Mark Reynolds.

  63. JohninOshkosh says:

    JAL-

    For example going back into the archive. On 01/30/12 Meddling Owners, Yes Please! I click on Leah’s highlighted name and I get her website. But I click on Kevin and Groat’s names and I get the Trib’s homepage.

  64. JAL says:

    JohninOshkosh

    That is what they are doing. Only way to make your name clickable is to put a wensite in.

  65. JohninOshkosh says:

    Sorry, return to sports, everyone.

  66. Craig Brewer says:

    @Ryan

    I think the bop needs to come around. I don’t like players like Reynolds with so many wasted outs, but the bop is what is needed.
    I will take your prediction (especially after last year).

  67. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    I’m hoping to be wrong on the BA. I hope he improves of course.

    I also do not think that he’s going to push those numbers this year and I completly agree that SOMEBODY needs to protect AMac. NW is a nice piece, but like you said, he’s not the answer to that.

  68. likeabugonarug says:

    Get PRNW signed, hopefully sometime during Spring Training. Then if he’s still available go back to D. Lee and show him these signings.

    DK, if you say there’s no way, have you heard a statement from Derrek why he feels that way? I realize we may not be WS contenders this season, but you’d think $7 million would be better than 0. And he would make a good fit in this lineup.

    DK: Lee has yet to speak about this publicly, to my knowledge. He won’t be coming to the Pirates, though.

  69. aglebagel says:

    Wow, it’s amazing what a season like Pedro’s 2011 does to expectations for a player. We’re now hoping he becomes Mark Reynolds? Ouch. The guy was the top hitter in college baseball just four years ago. Sad.

  70. Craig Brewer says:

    @bugonarug

    I think DK hinted that Lee’s daughter’s health condition somehow plays into his not wanting to be here. I got the feeling it was a family thing even more than doctors…

    Or maybe I am wrong…

  71. likeabugonarug says:

    Craig,

    I remember about the daughter. I was thinking he lived in Baltimore, or maybe that’s just because he was with the Orioles? If he lives on the west coast, then I can understand. In a cursory search on him, am not finding anything about where he lives now.

  72. Paul says:

    Why is it that every time there’s a discussion about McCutchen contract someone has to do a tie into Neil Walker? Neil Walker is a decent second baseman, not a great one and certainly not as valuable to the team or its future as Andrew McCutchen is. A 26 year old second baseman with a .742 OPs, who walks fewer than 10% of his plate appearances and maintains a 2/1 strikeout to walk ratio with little power isn’t the hot commodity the local media cheerleaders would have the fans believe and this talk of “home town discounts” is just a bunch of Pittsburgh media hype. Not it would be a bad thing to have his around for a few years at the right price but spending a great deal of money for that level of talent could be a potentially damaging thing.

    Good news about McCutchen but I fear that the Pirates are also about to repeat the same mistake they made with Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez by buying into their own hype regarding an averagish middle infielder and give him a contract they regret before the ink is dry on it and spend several years trying to unload with no success once it becomes apparent the money spent is not in like with the actual value.

    DK: Couple of odd notions there, Paul, none more striking than calling Sanchez “averagish.” Would love to see you quantify that categorization.

  73. BigDaddyHoss says:

    Dejan,
    I believe the signing of Cutch is huge. But I am keeping it in perspective. I hope the signing is the first step, not the only step. I have a fear that things go back to the status quo of pinching pennies. This signing does show others in and out of the organization something, but will Nutting allow the front office to spend more on their own (and other) free agents? Thanks.

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