If Andrew McCutchen suffers a debilitating injury in the next year or so would that make his recent $51M contract a mistake?
I wouldn't think so. Like Jason Kendall's often-criticized $60M contract extension, McCutchen's new contract makes financial and baseball sense for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kendall, when he signed his contract, was an All Star who looked as though he would have a Hall of Fame career or nearly so. He could hit and could field his position good enough to earn that kind of recognition. McCutchen today looks as though he'll become a four-tool All Star centerfielder. All Star centerfielders and catchers are rare and expensive players to have on a team. They are worth their money if they perform as expected
If, however, McCutchen were to injure himself next year or the year after, his contract might also become a dead weight for the Pirates, hindering the team's ability to sign other players on their roster. This was one criticism leveled at Jason Kendall, his large contract and the Pirates. Kendall was not worth his money.
Kendall and Pirates criticism had one problem. Kendall was worth his contract had he not injured himself in a way that diminished his production.
There are problems with failing to sign McCutchen to a contract extension. A failure to sign McCutchen now, especially for the kind of contract he signed, would tell the fans, the players and the League that the Pirates are not an organization seriously pursuing a championship. McCutchen is a player the Pirates needed to sign in order to legitimate their recent rebuilding effort. And they signed McCutchen.
But there are risks involved with signing any player for a long-term, high-dollar contract. The Pirates accepted those risks when they signed McCutchen just as they accepted those risks when they signed Kendall. Hopefully, this player and his contract performs better for the team and its fans than the last player with his franchise defining contract. And if McCutchen fails to perform as expected because he suffered an injury or two that diminished his talents? Well....