This, in many ways, was inevitable.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are falling out of the National League Central race. Opposing teams are starting to inquire about trading for some of the Pirates’ veterans in conversations with general manager Ben Cherington.
One of those players GMs are targeting is Andrew McCutchen and that makes perfect sense.
McCutchen is on a one-year, $5-million contract and can become a free agent at the end of the year. He is also having a productive season at age 36, hitting .271/.394/.431 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases in 66 games.
While the Pirates have been falling apart at the seams with 12 losses in their last 13 games, McCutchen has continued to be a steady presence in the lineup. It’s not his fault his team has fallen from first place to fourth in the division standings in what seems like eight minutes.
The American League West-leading Texas Rangers would like to add McCutchen as their designated hitter, according to an MLB.com report. I’ve been told other contenders would like to add McCutchen, too, in at least a part-time role if not as an everyday starter.
I learned a long time ago to never say never when it comes to baseball trades. However, I’d be surprised if the Pirates traded McCutchen between now and the Aug. 1 deadline, even if their freefall continues.
McCutchen does not have a no-trade clause in his contract. However, McCutchen does have an understanding with Cherington and owner Bob Nutting that he can’t be traded against his wishes.
Even with his tone-deafness with the fans, it is difficult to imagine Nutting would be OK with twice signing off on the trading of a franchise icon.
McCutchen has repeatedly said that he wants to finish his career with the Pirates. Of course, most of that came before the Pirates’ rapid submergence in the NL Central standings.
Nevertheless, I believe McCutchen does not want to leave. He firmly believes the organization is heading in the right direction and seems willing to ride out the rough patches that come with a team still not finished with its rebuilding process.
It is also quite clear that McCutchen enjoys being back in Pittsburgh, his adopted hometown, living in his own home with his wife and three children. He has referenced it often and there is no reason not to believe him.
I have known McCutchen since the Pirates drafted him as an 18-year-old from Fort Meade, Fla., in 2005. That is 18 years now and I have interviewed and had general conversations with him countless times during that span in every setting from sitting outside the clubhouse at Class A Hickory in North Carolina to each of the five All-Star Games he has played in.
Without a doubt, I can say this is the happiest I have ever seen McCutchen. He truly is glad to be back in Pittsburgh and enjoying his role as the trusted veteran in the clubhouse.
McCutchen has never played in the World Series and certainly the lure of winning an elusive ring could be tempting enough to make him consider a trade. He is certainly showing this season that he has more than enough left to help a team win a championship.
Yet I just don’t see McCutchen being ready to sacrifice his happiness to chase that ring.