After arguably the worst season of Andrew McCutchen’s stellar eight year career, the odds of McCutchen staying in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform for the rest of his career is suddenly looking like a long shot. Yes, Andrew McCutchen staying Pittsburgh Pirate until he retires is what should happen, but it is most likely not going to happen. Most people will blame it on his low numbers in 2016, and his almost apathetic demeanor towards winning, but in reality it has nothing to do with that. But, let’s quickly touch upon the apathetic demeanor previously stated.
Back in April when McCutchen was being interviewed on the field after a come from behind victory, he was asked about what he would say to fans about their slow start. McCutchen responded, “Last year we started very slow in April and May, and we still ended up winning 98 games. So, I don’t believe April really means all that much”. How can a professional baseball player, former MVP, face of the Pittsburgh Pirates and face of Major League Baseball possibly stand there and say that April does not mean all that much? April is 1/6th of the season. That is nearly 17% of the season. How does April differ from any other month in the 6 month season? Sure, I understand that August and September may seem more important just because it is the end of the season, but it is really all the same. If a team wins 100 games in a season, it does not matter when they won those 100 games, because they won 100 games. April is just as important as May, June, July, August, and September. By having the team captain have such a terrible attitude towards each and every game, it is no wonder the Pirates are back to a losing season. With all of that said, let us get back on track about why McCutchen will eventually be traded or eventually will not re-sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Shopping Andrew McCutchen has to do with BUSINESS. Major League Baseball is a business, and the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Organization is a business under Major League Baseball. These are businesses, and Pirates fans should know this all too well. Over the past decade, the Pirates have made many business decisions that had fans scratching their heads for months, even years, and they were trades that the majority of General Managers in professional sports would never have made if they were in the business to win, and not in the business to make money. It does not have anything to do with his stats, or his apathetic demeanor, because in reality, the front office does not care all that much about either of those. It all has to do with the business of baseball, and Nutting and Co. are only worried about their wallets. Let us take a look at some of the reason trades over the past decade or so that have left Pirates fans scratching their heads.
1. The Neil Walker Trade
The Pittsburgh Pirates are not afraid to shop the most popular player in the Pirates clubhouse. We all know about the Neil Walker trade to the New York Mets. The Hometown Kid who grew up in Pittsburgh, attended Pine Richland High School and was drafted by the Pirates fresh out of high school. Walker went through the Pirates system slowly but surely, and has had himself a very solid career in the Major Leagues. Neil Walker was definitely the most well liked player among the fans, and when he was traded, there were many mixed emotions. But, what this trade really showed was that the Pirates are not afraid to shop anyone, because it is a business.
2. The Jason Bay Trade
Jason Bay was an All-Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he was arguably the best player for the Pirates in the mid 2000’s. While approaching the All-Star break in the 2008 season, Jason Bay was going on an absolute tear for the Pirates. He had a .282 batting average with 22 home runs and 64 RBI’s. Those numbers were definitely the best offensive numbers on the squad. Pirates fans had mixed emotions about Bay, but not many really wanted to see him leave, because we all knew he was the heart and sole of the offense. Of course, when the trade deadline rolled around in 2008, Jason Bay was told to pack his bags and fly to Boston. The Pirates traded Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox in a three team trade involving Manny Ramirez being sent off from Boston to the Los Angeles Angels. How did this trade turn out for the Pirates? Well, Bay was never really too productive after his tenure with the Pirates, but once again, the Pirates got nothing in return.
3. The 2003 Aramis Ramirez Trade
Not much even needs to be said about this trade. Aramis Ramirez, at the age of 25, was blossoming into one of the most promising third baseman in all of baseball. Of course, the Pirates are not going to keep a player like this on a team that has next to no potential to even get to .500 on the season, so Ramirez was subsequently traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with aging outfielder Kenny Lofton, in exchange for third baseman Jose Hernandez, pitcher Matt Bruback, and second baseman Bobby Hill. Hernandez hit a whopping three home runs rest of the season for the Pirates, Bruback never even made it to the Major Leagues, and Hill was a weak utility player for a couple of seasons. Just like many trades to follow by the Pittsburgh Pirates, this trade was absolutely horrendous, and could easily go down as one of the most lob-sided trades in Major League Baseball history.
So, what happens if Andrew McCutchen is not traded? It is pretty simple, according to the Pirates, McCutchen will be moved to right field, Gregory Polanco will be moved to left field, and Gold Glove winner Starling Marte will take over for McCutchen in center field. This might be the best decision the Pirates can make in this difficult situation, because when you look at the three outfielders’ abilities to make throws, this is the best situation. I understand the whole case about how you need an arm in right field, but in PNC Park, the left fielder and the center fielder must have the strongest arm due to the 410 foot corner in left center where either the center fielder or the left fielder can field a ball out there.
Only time will tell what is going to happen with McCutchen, but do not be surprised if he is told he is heading to another city.
GZ Sports Report Writer