Mar 4, 2012; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) lines the ball to third base during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Hallelujah! Six years, $51.5 million with a $14.75 million club option. This buys out two free agent years. McCutchen would have been a free agent after the 2015 season; including the club option, this move can keep him in Pittsburgh until after the 2018 season.
Excellent, excellent news. Well done, Pirates, and kudos to Bob Nutting for opening the wallet on this one. Parsing the finances isn't really the point, I don't think; this deal is roughly similar to the ones Jay Bruce and Justin Upton got, and those were the deals the negotiations between McCutchen and the Pirates seemed to revolve around. The Bucs got an option on a seventh year out of the deal, which Bruce got and Upton didn't, so that's a nice bonus.
The key point here is that McCutchen's athleticism, broad skill set and good health (at least until after bunting drills tomorrow) give him excellent chances to become a superstar, if he isn't one already, and to age gracefully. The Pirates can now keep him in Pittsburgh through his age 31 season. In practice he'll probably depart before that, but this contract pushes that date back a few years into the future. It also increases the chances that McCutchen will still be around when guys like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon emerge as effective starters, so this move greatly improves the Bucs' prospects for competing in 2015 and 2016, when McCutchen might previously have been gone.
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that I wanted to see the Pirates' minor leaguers take a big step forward this year, and also this:
I also want to see some glimmer of hope that Huntington and the Pirates have some sort of plan to win at the major-league level -- a surprising trade, an Andrew McCutchen extension, something -- that goes beyond shuffling deck chairs and praying for draft picks to work out.
I'm not sure if the A.J. Burnett deal quite counts as "a surprising trade," but it was definitely close, given its impact (now diminished by the bunting fiasco, although of course Neal Huntington couldn't have predicted that) and how uncharacteristic it was. And now, five weeks later, we've got our McCutchen extension as well. The future still doesn't look glorious, or anything, but it looks a lot brighter than it did back in January.
Hooray. I love this.
UPDATE 12:40 AM: We haven't heard the breakdown yet, but Bruce's contract is $2.75 million, $5 million, $7.5 million, $10 million, $12 million, $12.5 million, plus a $1 million buyout on his $13 million option. I'd expect McCutchen's deal to look something like that, perhaps with a bit more backloading.
UPDATE 1:36 AM: I forget where I saw this recently, but Brian just posted it on his Twitter, and it seems appropriate.
UPDATE 11:52 AM: Rob Biertempfel writes that McCutchen will get a $1.25 million signing bonus, and a salary of $500,000 this year.
UPDATE 1:57 PM: Here's the breakdown, presumably not including the $1.25 million signing bonus.
#Pirates pay McCutchen 2012: $500k, 13:$4.5m, 14: $7.25m, 15: $10m, 16: $13m, 17: $14m. Option$14.75 or $1m buyout
I wrote last night that I expected McCutchen's deal to look a lot like Jay Bruce's, but with a little more backloading, and that's exactly what happened. With the signing bonus, McCutchen will get $1.75 million this year, compared to Bruce's $2.75 million. After that, each of the first five years of the two contracts are within a million bucks of one another, until year six, when Bruce gets $12.5 million and McCutchen gets $14 million. Then two contracts have similar option years, both with $1 million buyouts. It's like Pirates and McCutchen's agent drew up the deal with Bruce's contract in mind, and then hardly deviated from it.
To the extent that the deals are different, those differences come almost straight out of Justin Upton's contract. Upton got a $1.25 million bonus and $500,000 in his first year, followed by $4.25 million in the second year. Upton's contract doesn't have an option, however. Clearly, not a lot of creativity went into these negotiations. It's interesting that they took this long. (That's not meant to be critical, obviously.)