clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ask BD: Where does Andrew McCutchen rate in Pirates franchise history?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks, everyone for your questions. Here's the next round of answers.

Hank Chadwick: If Andrew McCutchen were traded tomorrow, where would you place him among all-time Pirate greats?

For whatever it's worth, McCutchen ranks 14th among all players in bWAR with the Pirates, with 37 -- just behind Ralph Kiner, Bob Friend and Sam Leever and just ahead of Tommy Leach, Pie Traynor and Bill Mazeroski. The fact that guys like Kiner, Traynor and Mazeroski are widely known Pirates legends while Leever and Leach are relatively obscure illustrates the difficulty in putting the career of a player like McCutchen into historical perspective, so as for how to rate him, well, your mileage may vary. Comparing one player to another who played in a different era is problematic for all kinds of reasons, beginning with the fact that if you plopped someone like Michael Martinez in a time machine and had him play against in the majors 100 years ago, he'd probably trounce everyone. Players today are simply a lot better than they were in generations past, so from that perspective, McCutchen is probably the greatest Pirate ever to this point.

Of course, that's not necessarily the best way to look at things. But McCutchen's career looks great regardless of your vantage point. Consider that McCutchen has only played parts of eight seasons with the Bucs, while everyone else I've already named (besides Kiner) played several more. In terms of pure talent relative to the era in which he played, McCutchen rates right up there with the best who've ever worn a Pirates uniform -- perhaps behind players like Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Barry Bonds, Arky Vaughan and Paul Waner, but definitely in the conversation.

Then click over to that Baseball Reference list and look at how few of the photographs are in color. McCutchen is the only player on the list who's played for the Pirates in the past two decades. I'm not sure that affects where he rates among the franchise's best talents, but it clearly makes him a very important player, probably more important than you can measure with a WAR figure or any other number. McCutchen was crucial in resurrecting a franchise that was damn near dead. You can't put a number on that, but I hope, if McCutchen can get out of his year-long funk and continue what has so far been a Hall-of-Fame-caliber career, they can find a way to put that on his plaque someday. Dude's a titan.

CT Bucco: Of David Freese, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez, who would you try to re-sign for next year? And how about if you can only re-sign one of them?

Freese. Joyce, as great as he's been, could become somewhat superfluous if Austin Meadows elbows his way into the picture, and I'm not sure it makes sense to count on S-Rod replicating anything resembling his 2016 numbers next year. Obviously, though, I'd be happy if the Pirates could retain them all somehow. That trio deserves a ton of credit for helping keep an uneven Bucs team in the playoff hunt.

2010 will be the year: Who are your September call-ups this year? Think there will be any major surprises?

Maybe not. Many obvious candidates who aren't currently on the active roster (Elias Diaz, Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, Jason Rogers, Wilfredo Boscan, etc.) are on the 40-man and have already had cups of coffee this season. Potential candidates who aren't on the 40-man include Pedro Florimon, Curtis Partch and maybe someone like Dovydas Neverauskas or Trevor Williams (who might have shots in part because they're likely to be added to the roster this winter anyway).

YTownBucsFan: Which city gets the next expansion team?

Montreal. Either Austin or San Antonio would also make sense. Mexico City would also be cool, but there are a ton of issues with that, from geography to elevation to currency. Jon Morosi wrote a good article on this topic in February.

Alleghenys: Should the Pirates go beyond the international bonus pool recommendation one year to acquire high-grade talent (while suffering the penalties)? it’s a topic worth discussing after the Cubs traded a pricey foreign acquisition (Gleyber Torres, $1.7 million signing bonus) for Aroldis Chapman this week.

Yes, they should have done this, and there was, in my opinion, no good reason they didn't. They might not get to in the future, either, with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring this winter.

For those who don't know, clubs' pursuit of international amateur players is now governed by bonus pools, with penalties for exceeding the pools including taxes and the inability to sign top players in subsequent years. The penalties have, however, been insufficient to stop different clubs from going nuts in various years, blowing past their bonus pool figures in order to acquire disproportionate amounts of top talent. The Pirates have never been among those clubs, preferring to play nice and focus on smaller signings.

Torres is a great example of the sort of player the Pirates missed out on. The Cubs paid a price for Torres that the Pirates easily could have afforded (even with the penalties), and now the Cubs are reaping the benefits. This isn't to say the Bucs should have pursued Torres specifically, only that they should not have stood on the sidelines every year in the past several while other teams vacuumed up the top Latin American amateurs available. I wrote about this earlier this month, prior to the Chapman trade, and I specifically mentioned Torres as an example of the kind of player the Pirates were missing by never throwing their hats into the ring.

Under Rene Gayo, the Pirates have preferred to look for lesser-known players, and they've done well with that strategy, luring Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco with minimal bonuses. But there is no reason they could not have pursued more expensive prospects as well. Torres' value at this point is self-evident, and all it takes to sign players like him is a copy of Baseball America, a little money and a willingness to flout the rules. (And, of course, you've got to put in the work to lure the player, develop a relationship with his family, and so on. But you see my point.)

To the Bucs' credit, they were more than willing to throw around money in the draft before bonus pools were instituted there, while other organizations were penny wise and pound foolish. In the case of Latin American talents, it's been the other way around.