Pirates To Sign Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen is going back to where it all began. The free-agent outfielder has agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Pirates, reports Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The agreement is pending a physical.

It’s a feel-good story for Bucs fans, who’ll surely give the five-time All-Star and 2013 National League MVP a hero’s welcome in his return to PNC Park. The Pirates selected McCutchen, now 36 years old, with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2005 draft. He immediately ranked among the sport’s top overall prospects after a strong post-draft showing in the minors in ’05, and by 2009 he’d reached the Majors and played his way into a fourth-place Rookie of the Year finish in the National League, hitting .286/.365/.471.

That served as a stepping stone into stardom for McCutchen, who’d spend the first nine seasons of his career in black and gold, hitting a combined .291/.379/.487 with 203 home runs, 292 doubles, 44 triples and 171 stolen bases. A true cornerstone player, McCutchen led the Pirates to their three most recent postseason appearances, in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — each a Wild Card berth. Pittsburgh only advanced in one of those three seasons, topping the Reds in a one-game Wild Card showdown in 2013 before falling to the Cardinals in that year’s NLDS.

McCutchen signed an early extension with Pittsburgh — a six-year, $51.5MM contract with a club option for a seventh season. That gave the Bucs some extra club control and cost certainty over a player who was then the face of the franchise, but as is so often the case with the Pirates and other low-payroll clubs, McCutchen surfaced as a trade candidate in the late stages of that contract. Nearly six years after that extension was signed, McCutchen was traded to the Giants in what was an unpopular move at the time but now looks like perhaps the best swap in former GM Neal Huntington’s tenure. In order to acquire the final year of McCutchen’s contract, the Giants parted with right-hander Kyle Crick and the man who eventually replaced McCutchen in the outfield: current center fielder Bryan Reynolds.

Since leaving the Pirates and entering his mid-30s, McCutchen’s production has begun to wane. He proved plenty productive in a 2018 season split between the Giants and Yankees — enough to land a three-year, $50MM contract with the Phillies. The first season of that deal saw continued production early on, but McCutchen suffered a torn ACL that June, missed the remainder of the season, and has since settled in closer to league-average in terms of offensive output. Over the past three seasons, he’s a .234/.325/.417 hitter — about three percent better than league average, by measure of wRC+.

McCutchen spent the 2022 campaign with Milwaukee and scuffled to a career-low .237/.316/.384 batting line in 580 trips to the plate. Even as McCutchen’s bat began to slow down in his post-Pirates days, he remained a potent threat against left-handed pitching, hitting southpaws at a .291/.407/.567 slash from 2019-21. However, that trend also dipped with the Brewers in 2022, as McCutchen turned in a tepid .221/.303/.434 line even when holding the platoon advantage….

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