McCutchen investment a good one for Pirates

Owner Bob Nutting made a bold move in upgrading the Pirates' talent portfolio by locking up one of their core young pieces. The question is, was it a sound strategy?
March 6, 2012 12:00 am
  • Ron Cook: Andrew McCutchen, just 25, is one of baseball's most dynamic young players.
    Ron Cook: Andrew McCutchen, just 25, is one of baseball's most dynamic young players.
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Go back to November 2000. The Pirates, on the verge of moving into beautiful new PNC Park, lived up to their promise to keep their star player by signing catcher Jason Kendall to a six-year, $60 million contract extension. "If I didn't believe we were going to win here, I wouldn't sign here, no matter how much money they gave me," Kendall said at the time. "It's going to happen here. I've just got that feeling."

The Kendall contract crippled the Pirates and set them back for years. You might have heard they still haven't won.

Go back to November 2005. The Pirates bought out the arbitration years of slugging left fielder Jason Bay with a four-year, $18.5 million contract. "This is one of the best days of my life," Bay said.

The Pirates traded Bay to the Boston Red Sox in July 2008 for what has amounted to, at least to this point, next to nothing.

And we're supposed to be excited about the Andrew McCutchen deal?

Yes, actually.

You should love the deal.

McCutchen, just 25, is one of baseball's most dynamic young players. He's much more than a singles hitter, as Kendall was, and much more of a complete player than Bay. He has a wonderful combination of speed and power, the best this city has seen in a player other than Barry Bonds in the past quarter-century. He can hit home runs and drive in runs; he had 23 homers and 89 RBIs last season. He should be able to hit for average; his .216 limp to the finish line after the All-Star break last season was an aberration. He should steal at least 30 bases, if not 40. He covers acres in center field.

It is worth repeating:

You should love this contract.

Pirates owner Bob Nutting -- much-maligned and deservedly so for his hesitancy to spend money to field a competitive team -- showed something by buying out not just McCutchen's three arbitration years but also his first two years of free agency through the 2017 season. The six-year deal, first reported Monday morning by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is worth $51.5 million. The team also has an option on McCutchen for $14.75 million in '18.

This deal should be an absolute steal for the Pirates. No, it's not as risk-free as the six-year, $15 million contract through '16 that outfielder Jose Tabata unbelievably accepted last season with team options for three seasons through '19. But if McCutchen even approaches stardom, the deal will be team-friendly to say the least.

First Published 2012-03-05 23:20:54

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