You can’t tell the story of the Pittsburgh Pirates without a man from Fort Meade, Florida. “Cutch.” “Clutch McCutchen.” “MVP.” “Cutch 22.” Whatever you may call him, Andrew McCutchen holds a special place in the hearts of Pirates fans. To the delight of many, his playing time in Pittsburgh doesn’t seem to be nearing its end.
Speaking to reporters in Seattle before the Pirates faced the Mariners in a three-game set, McCutchen expressed his desire to keep playing past 2023 and emphatically stated, “I’m not done.” There’s little question that McCutchen brings an instant presence to the Pirates clubhouse and a jolt to a young team needing veteran leadership.
Now 36 years old, McCutchen is closing in on significant career milestones and has already notched his 1,500th career hit in a Bucco uniform and 1,000th walk in his 15th year. Cutch is nine hits away from 2,000, five home runs shy of 300, two doubles from 400 and needs one triple for 50 career three-baggers.
McCutchen owned a .268/.362/.459 slash line and .821 OPS through 45 games with six doubles, eight homers, and 20 runs batted in. He’s shown off his fresh legs and turned back the clock to steal five bases in seven attempts, on pace to reach double-digit steals and his best total swiping bags since his first stint on the team.
Why wouldn’t the Pirates want to bring him back? Sure young players are the priority and but it’s not like Cutch is only along for the ride. He’s shifted to hitting leadoff as one of the Bucs' best hitters and a consistent threat to reach base. The Pirates will deploy Bryan Reynolds in the outfield to close the decade, but two other spots are up for grabs. Jack Suwinski has been allotted a majority of playing time in center, sharing time with infielder-turned-outfielder Ji Hwan Bae, and still struggles with swing-and-miss concerns and significantly streaky trends at the plate.
If McCutchen had played his entire career in Pittsburgh, would he be a lock for the Hall of Fame? Cutch has previously stated how much the energy and fans at PNC Park play a role in his success and being fired up every day to perform at the highest level.
After starting 20-8, the Pirates fell under .500 on Memorial Day to 26-27 in a lopsided loss to the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates' offense continues to struggle and occasionally breaks out for a brief nine-inning span before returning back to the depths of mediocrity.
McCutchen has been a stabilizing force for the Bucs' lineup, which looks bare without him in it. Derek Shelton moved him to the leadoff spot earlier in May due to his ability to reach base.
Now back in the three-hole Monday against the team Pittsburgh traded him to, McCutchen struggled with two strikeouts in four at-bats, and his average (.261) and OPS (.798) dropped the past two losses. Regardless, his numbers are still better than seasons before he returned to the Black and Gold and the familiarity of Pittsburgh.
The Pirates should offer McCutchen another one-year, $5 million deal. It doesn’t have to be now, or tomorrow, next week, or next month. But a deal to secure McCutchen for 2024 shouldn’t take much of a discussion. The offseason is the mostly likely time pen can/will hit the paper. McCutchen means more to the organization, fans, city, and landscape of baseball in Pittsburgh than anyone can put into words. He deserves the ability to partly control his own destiny as long as he maintains his quality approach at the plate.