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Andrew McCutchen’s return to Pittsburgh just feels right

The five-time All-Star returns on a one-year contract.

San Francisco Giants vs Pittsburgh Pirates Set Number: X158495 TK1

Andrew McCutchen’s return to Pittsburgh is exactly what it should be. The chance for a beloved former MVP to come home for the final chapter of his storied career.

It was supposed to be like this… at least I felt so five years ago. As a junior in high school only a short time after McCutchen was dealt to San Francisco, I wrote it only seemed right that Cutch embark on the next phase of his baseball journey before the Pirates treated him like royalty and reunited with the five-time All-Star selection.

Seeing it all come to fruition is something I don’t know if McCutchen thought would ever happen again, donning the Black and Gold uniform for the city he named his first child Steel after.

McCutchen has been as impactful to Pittsburgh as Sidney Crosby to the Penguins and Ben Roethlisberger to the Steelers, resurrecting baseball in the Steel City following 20 straight losing seasons. No, it did not come with championship glory like the other two Hall of Famers, but the most adored Bucco since Willie Stargell changed the culture surrounding the notion of Pirates baseball.

The Pirates officially announced the signing one week after Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the agreement and the Bucs hinted at the return themselves.

McCutchen also has the chance to reach major career milestones while representing the Pirates. Cutch is eight doubles shy of 400, one triple away from 50, 13 home runs shy of 3000, 17 walks away from 1000, and 52 hits from 2,000 for his career.

The 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft, McCutchen won the 2013 MVP Award in Pittsburgh as well as four Silver Sluggers, and a Gold Glove from 2009-2017. Now 36, McCutchen is not the same player he was during the 2013-15 playoff stretch, but he can still play.

Cutch hit .237 with 17 home runs and 69 RBI for the Milwaukee Brewers last season, reaching the 1,000 RBI plateau. His 69 runs batted in would have ranked first on the Pirates, ahead of the man he was traded for - Bryan Reynolds - by seven runs.

Likely being utilized as a corner outfielder and/or designated hitter, McCutchen’s sprint speed remains elite. He ranks in the 90th percentile according to Baseball Savant and 92nd in chase rate at the plate. His average exit velocity (51st) and hard-hit percentage (50th) were league average in 2022 while McCutchen’s walk rate still ranked high (70th).

The probability of the Pirates shaping out to be an improved team in 2023 jumped when McCutchen re-signed for $5 million, not only a gesture to fans but a step inside the clubhouse adding a veteran leader. The recipient of the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award, McCutchen means as much to the city as almost any other athlete in Pittsburgh spanning the past 50 years. It may only be for one season, but if McCutchen is still productive and the team takes a major step forward, who knows what the future holds?

Having No. 22 in a Pirates uniform roaming the outfield again at PNC Park just feels right. It was always meant to be, and now their back together again to ride off into the sunset once and for all.