PITTSBURGH – Andrew McCutchen’s season is over with 3.5 weeks left.
That leads to the logical question of whether the 36-year-old designated hitter/outfielder’s career with the Pittsburgh Pirates is over again. McCutchen’s one-year, $5-million contract expires following the season and anything can happen once a player reaches free agency.
Of course, McCutchen’s career with the Pirates ended once before. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants before the start of spring training in 2018.
The Pirates and McCutchen reunited this season, and the marriage has turned out well for both sides. McCutchen seems happier than he has ever been in his career and the Pirates not only gained a veteran presence in their clubhouse, but a player who has generated additional ticket and merchandising revenue.
It truly had been a win-win situation until the Pirates announced McCutchen on Wednesday that he would miss the rest of the season with a partially torn left Achilles tendon.
McCutchen isn’t the same player he was while being selected to five consecutive All-Star Games from 2011-15. However, he is still a contributor and not taking up a roster spot because of sentimentality.
McCutchen finishes his season with a .256/.378/.397 slash line in 112 games to go with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases.
Never a premier power hitter – McCutchen’s career high for homers is 28 in 2017 – his lack of longballs in recent months at least gives cause for concern. He has homered just twice in 177 plate appearances since July 1 and will finish the season stuck on 299 career homers.
Yet McCutchen still gets on base at an outstanding clip as his .378 on-base percentage suggests. He has walked 75 times in 473 plate appearances.
McCutchen will fall 31 trips to the plate short of the 502 plate appearances necessary to quality for the league leaders at the end of the season. However, his OBP ranks 10th among major-league hitters with at least 450 plate appearances.
The ability to get on base also offsets the fact he has not played in the outfield since May 30 because of ankle and elbow injuries. McCutchen will finish the season with one defensive run saved, which isn’t great but also shows he is not a liability in the outfield.
Beyond the statistics are the intangible aspects. Though McCutchen is not a vocal leader, he is very respected within the clubhouse and the Pirates’ young players rave about how much he cares about them and serves as a mentor.
McCutchen is also sneakily a funny guy and knows how to keep his teammates loose. Over a 162-game season, that counts more than many people think.
Most importantly, McCutchen wants to keep playing, specifically for the Pirates. McCutchen has lived in Western Pennsylvania since getting married and he and his wife Maria are raising their three children in the North Hills.
“I’m not going to go out like this,” McCutchen said Wednesday before the Pirates beat the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 at PNC Park. “I want to continue to keep playing and push through this, let this heal and be ready to go for 2024.”
McCutchen is making $5 million this season. During a conversation I had with him two weeks ago, it seems he won’t be looking to break the bank with his next contract. He has earned over $128 million in his career and is financially set for the rest of his life.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he would agree to come back at the same salary next season.
So, it just makes all the sense in the world for the Pirates to re-up for a second Andrew McCutchen Reunion Tour in 2024.