Yesterday, the Philadelphia Phillies did something that many fans thought would never happen: they declined Andrew McCutchen’s option for 2022, making him a free agent.
Many Pittsburgh Pirates fans, including some of us here at Bucs Dugout, quickly took to social media to campaign for them to bring back the man who single handedly revitalized baseball in the Steel City.
Bring Cutch Home! Great rebirth slogan.— Black Swan (@Drliamx) November 3, 2021
Andrew McCutchen returns to the Pirates. Reunion. Farewell. Mentorship. Make it happen. https://t.co/O1CXTzr6Nw— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) November 3, 2021
But among the positive tweets, there were some fans who thought it would be a wasted move on the Pirates’ end.
Also, friends…We do not need Andrew McCutchen. Those days are not coming back. Let’s just move forward.— Patty, Just Patty (@padavies3) November 4, 2021
The tweet above brings a valid point: the glory days of 2013-15 are not coming back. But who’s to say Cutch can’t provide a veteran spark to the club in the 2022 season?
Here are some ways that a Pirates-McCutchen reunion makes sense.
We already touched on this, so let’s break it down even more.
The Pirates have lacked a true veteran presence in recent years, which is crucial to a team’s success. They tried it this past year with the likes of Trevor Cahill and Todd Frazier, but neither panned out. Other veteran projects included Derek Holland and Jarrod Dyson in 2020, Melky Cabrera in 2019, and Ivan Nova in 2018.
Needless to say, the only one who brought any light to the team was Cabrera, but even that was a stretch.
McCutchen, however, would not need an adjustment period if he were brought back, as he always knew how to keep teams, especially the Pirates, amped up.
Whether it was by coming through in clutch scenarios (i.e. his walk-off home run against the Cardinals - 7/11/15) or creating alternate personalities to boost clubhouse morale, like “Uncle Larry” with the Phillies, he was always the leading result of a positive atmosphere.
Even if his on-field talent lacks, you need a leader like McCutchen on your team.
His connection to Pittsburgh
In a news story posted yesterday by Patricia Beninato, she highlighted one key aspect regarding McCutchen’s connection to Pittsburgh:
“He still lives here (his wife is from the area), and Bob Nutting and Ben Cherington know that...”
Other than the connection he made on the field with fans during his tenure with the Pirates, his off-field connection resonates stronger. He’s moved to three different teams since 2018, but his heart stayed in Pittsburgh — something you normally never see from a player when they’re traded or signed to a new club.
He would probably love to return to a short commute to work rather than being distant from his family, especially with how late it is in his career.
It’s no surprise Bob Nutting would rather play Moneyball in order to win rather than paying for high-end talent, as it’s been the theme for more than a decade. However, re-signing Cutch could save face for him.
McCutchen just turned 35 years old and is way past his prime. Sure, he’s not as bad as some recent reclamation projects, but he’s no MVP-caliber player like he was in the early 2010s.
This could be a good thing, though, as he won’t be looking for a long-term deal nor would he be looking for an exorbitant price tag. If anything, the most he would take would be a two-year deal worth $10-$13 million just to continue playing and being that aforementioned leader in the clubhouse for a franchise that’s rebuilding.
Also, he’s never made more than $20 million per year, according to Baseball-Reference.
The Pirates’ need for OF depth
With the absence of Gregory Polanco leaving a gap in the outfield last season, the Pirates need to address this in the looming offseason.
As of now, the outfield for next year consists of Bryan Reynolds, Ben Gamel, Anthony Alford and a rotation of Cole Tucker, Yoshi Tsutsugo (if he re-signs), and Michael Chavis. It would be hard to accept a revolving door right field, especially if Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton want 2022 to bear more fruit than 2021.
Reynolds and Gamel have proven that they can benefit in both aspects of the game, but Alford is still shaking off rust from 2021. He struggled at the plate throughout most of the season and was demoted to Triple-A in the early months, so the chances of him breaking out come Opening Day are slim to none.
It would benefit both the Pirates’ reputation and on-field product if McCutchen is here on Opening Day to take one of the corner spots in the outfield. This way, you have a player who knows the system and has experience covering all areas of the outfield.
There are legitimate reasons that a Pirates-McCutchen reunion could happen in the offseason, however, a signing wouldn’t come until closer to Spring Training. That is, if Cutch is still available.
Hear our pleas, Ben, and do us all a favor: bring him home.