Andrew McCutchen is back, again, for another year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 37-year-old’s one-year, $5 million contract is official and the 2024 season will be McCutchen’s 11th in the black and gold.
McCutchen, who spent 2009-17 with the Pirates, returned to his original club last offseason on an identical one-year deal.
Last winter, the Pirates were coming off of their second-straight 100-loss season. Though the belief was that McCutchen could still be a valuable contributor to help the team, the 15-year veteran was brought in just as much for his leadership as he was for his on-field abilities.
It was an ideal reunion between the two parties for a variety of reasons. For McCutchen, he had his best showing with the bat since a torn ACL limited him to just 59 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019.
For the Pirates, not only did they see a revitalized fanbase thanks to the return of the fan favorite, but the on-field product finished the 2023 seasons with 14 more wins than they did in 2022.
Heading into his second year back with the Pirates, McCutchen is ready to put the Pirates’ prolonged rebuild to bed.
“I feel like there definitely needs to be steps taken forward,” McCutchen said on Wednesday while speaking with reporters over Zoom. “I feel like the Pirates have been under this window of development and rebuild. That’s always the word you always hear when it comes to teams that may struggle. They’ve got to find that way to build a championship ballclub.
“I think we’re in a place now where that’s out the window. There’s changes and things that need to be done. We need to be in a place to where we can win. Development and rebuild’s out of the window now.”
Those are strong words from McCutchen, who was part of the Pirates’ last playoff runs for three years from 2013-15.
Since then, the Pirates have had only one winning season, an 82-79 finish in 2018. After a lackluster 2019 season, owner Bob Nutting decided to clean house and bring in a new team president, general manager and manager.
The general manager job ultimately went to Ben Cherington. Since taking the reigns, Cherington has completely revamped the organization in a large-scale rebuilding effort.
In what will be the new regime’s fifth season in 2024, it’s time for the Pirates to take that next step towards the postseason, at least in McCutchen’s eyes.
“There’s been enough seasoning, as far as from a club standpoint, the main eight, nine guys in the lineup to where it’s like, ‘All right, let’s put on our big-boy pants and get to work.’ It’s in a place to where we can do that,” McCutchen said.
“We have some guys that have been drafted and we have some guys in the minors that are eager, ready and hungry to be here on the ballclub. That’s great to have. And we have options. That’s great, too. Being able to have options for people that can come and be part of this ballclub and can help this ballclub win.”
Along with the in-house players, the Pirates have made a number of external additions this offseason. In addition to McCutchen, the Pirates added a pair of veteran left-handed starters in Marco Gonzales and Martín Pérez. They also signed first baseman Rowdy Tellez, traded for outfielder Edward Olivares and brought in catcher Ali Sánchez.
The Pirates are still seeking additional acquisitions as the offseason marches on.
With the additions already made, the ones still yet to happen and the players returning from last season, there’s no shortage of competition heading into the spring. For Andrew McCutchen, he’s hoping that competition will help eliminate ‘rebuild’ as a descriptive term of the Pirates’ organization.
“I really think spring training is going to be a little different this time around,” he said. “I’m not the manager, nor do I work for the front office, but I feel like there’s going to be a lot of positions to be won. There’s going to be a lot of rotation and bullpen spots to be won over, so it’s going to be a big competition for a lot of guys and I think that’s going to help the ballclub. It’s going to propel us into the season to get things started.”