11-5-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
It would be exciting for some, desperate for others, ineffective regardless, but make no mistake, even as his skills have naturally declined, he’d still have a spot here.
News, albeit expected news, broke yesterday that the Phillies were going to buy out Andrew McCutchen’s contract for 2022 in which he was going to make 15 million dollars making him a free agent.
Now, before we dive into the Pirates side of this, let’s start with Andrew. At his stage of career, it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t want to find his way to a playoff team. He’s 35, he just hit 27 homeruns, but he’s simply nowhere near the player he was. He can help a team, but in a starter’s role, well, lets just say a playoff team probably isn’t looking to him to start.
If playing time was more important to him, ok, a team like Pittsburgh could probably offer plenty. They aren’t alone, plenty of teams out there would like that power infusion and despite his .222 batting average, he walked enough to keep the OBP at .334, so it’s not like he’s a dead stop in the lineup.
It makes sense for a lot of reasons. You can’t tell me there’s a world where you think he’s not at least as good as Ben Gamel, or better than Anthony Alford. Honesty is honesty though, a 1.3 WAR is only slightly above replacement player level.
He is what he is, a 35 year old, serviceable player who has more to give, but his best is FAR behind him at this point.
Now, it has to be noted Jason Mackey has reported there isn’t really much, if any, interest from the Pirates, so most of this conversation is moot.
That hasn’t stopped fans from hammering Cutch online, and this, well, this mystifies me.
People can say what they want, this isn’t some freedom of speech attack, lord knows we aren’t a society that is seeing everything eye to eye today. This is more confusion for me.
Here’s a guy who came to the Pirates with huge expectation, and delivered. 5 All Star Nods, won the MVP and was in the running 4 times. Signed here for much less than he could have gotten if he chose to just ride it out because for some reason winning was important to him, and more importantly for Pirates fans, wanted to win HERE.
He did, he just didn’t win it all.
Traded in the off season following 2017, the Pirates clearly got the best Cutch had to offer. He played his best brand of baseball here. In other words, and with the benefit of hindsight because of the success of Bryan Reynolds, the Pirates played the McCutchen card flawlessly.
So what’s not to like?
He struggled in 2016, and 2017. That’s really it. He didn’t play like the MVP candidate we’d all come to expect and love in those two seasons. Neal Huntington lovers bleat about this all the time, see when most fans talk about how Neal and Bob sold the team down the river after 2015 the defenders love to remind us that Andrew and Neil Walker didn’t play their best either. They like to make sure you remember Starling Marte got pinged for PEDs too, well, as long as you’re not trying to explain why Cutch was possessive of center field. Cutch was moved for the superior defender, who happened to be doing drugs to play better. I’ll give him a pass for being indignant in this case.
Cutch and Walker had some less than kind words for how the Pirates handled things after 2015 too, but was it really any different than Jameson Taillon in 2019 being disappointed the business of baseball is what it is in some markets?
In my mind, a couple things going on here. First, fans just know he isn’t coming back, long before Jason Mackey all but confirmed the reality. So they brace themselves. Just like I used to tell my wife the new Lexus SUVs were ugly 10 years ago, I’m not getting one, and sometimes it’s nicer to make sure people don’t think I wanted one.
I also think genuinely, we did get the best he had to offer. So why bring back a shell of Cutch? Thing is, the numbers he put up would be fine if he repeated them, but they would also not be the Cutch we remember or would assume he’d be. In other words, another market might be happy with what he is, this one might not.
That said, this man did very good things here, very much so meant a lot to this franchise and I see no reason to punt on him at this stage. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out his very real decline, doesn’t mean we have to pretend everything he touched turned to gold here, but maybe we don’t need to pretend his legacy is one of failure and despair.
He embraced this community, embraced most of the fans, and put this franchise on his shoulders, willingly. We praise Mike Tomlin for saying he wants volunteers rather than hostages, well, here was a volunteer, and for me, he’s forever a bright spot in the middle of some very dark periods of Pirates baseball. I’m not anxious to pretend he was anything less, even if it protects my feelings.
Sometimes, it’s ok to just be ok. It’s ok to just leave Cutch as a happy memory, and not believing he is a needed or even good fit at this point shouldn’t mean revising history or embellishing it to make sure it doesn’t.