Earlier this evening, ESPN’s Keith Law reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates, presumably frustrated with their lock of progress in negotiating a long term contract with center fielder Andrew McCutchen, would listen to offers on the 25 year old super star who is still under team control until after the 2015 season.
Cue: mass hysteria, unrealistic mock trade proposals and scorn for the Pittsburgh Pirates front office.
Don’t worry Pittsburgh fans. Everything is going to be all right. Pirates GM Neal Huntington isn’t an idiot. He’s actually rather clever.
In attempting to strike a deal with McCutchen, the Pirates front office would gain an understanding of the gap between what they’re willing to pay the 2011 All-Star and what he’s seeking. Prior to caving into their player’s demands, the prudent thing to do would be to not only see how other teams value that potential investment, but also if the value that McCutchen offers can be had at a cheaper rate while he’s still a valuable commodity.
Law mentions Justin Upton’s contract with the Arizona Diamonbacks in his analysis of McCutchen’s worth and it’s an apt comparison. The D’Backs’ right fielder signed a six year $51.25 million deal which bought out his final year at league minimum, three arbitration years and first two years of free agency. After narrowly missing out on Super Two status, McCutchen will be in his final season at league minimum before being eligible for his first of three salary arbitration years ahead of the 2013 season.
It’s no coincidence that one of the first moves that Arizona GM Kevin Towers made in the off season after he took over from Josh Byrnes was to open up discussions with other teams on Upton. The young All-Star was about to get a major increase in pay going from $500,000 in 2010 to $4.25 million in 2011, and before reaping what the previous general manager had sown, Towers did his due diligence in discovering Upton’s worth and the comparative value of what teams considered it to be.
Because McCutchen has one more year of low cost team control, plays a more demanding position and still manages to put up a similar weighted on base average, it should be interesting to see how teams consider his worth in comparison to Upton who was locked up for five years at more than $50 million during last year’s off season. Without a contract in place, McCutchen only has four years of team control, but as I’ve mentioned, one of those years will be at league minimum.
When all is said and done, I doubt McCutchen gets moved. He’s far too valuable of a player to a franchise that was wise enough not to go all in at the trade deadline when they found themselves unexpectedly still in contention in the National League Central Division.