Pirates, Andrew McCutchen agree to six-year, $51.5 million contract

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It was a long time coming, but Andrew McCutchen finally got the Pirates to beat the Justin Upton and Jay Bruce deals. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the two sides have agreed to a six-year, $51.5 million contract that will take care of all of the outfielder’s arbitration seasons and his first two years of free agency.

The deal includes a $14.75 million club option for 2018.

McCutchen, 25, made his first All-Star team last year, though he faded badly in the second half. He ended up hitting .259/.364/.456 with 23 homers and 89 RBI in 572 at-bats. The .820 OPS was right in between his marks from his rookie season in 2009 (.836) and his sophomore campaign in 2010 (.814).

McCutchen and the Pirates had been trying to come to terms on a deal since last summer, with McCutchen using the previous six-year deals signed by Upton ($51.25 million) and Bruce ($51 million) as a guideline. The Pirates were hoping to do something in the $40 million range, and when McCutchen failed to relent, there was even some talk that they could trade him.

McCutchen, Upton and Bruce were all chosen in the first-round of the 2005 draft, and though Upton is pretty clearly the biggest star in the group, he signed his deal before the 2010 season, back when he was less established. Bruce signed his with the Reds one years ago.

While this is more than the Pirates wanted to spend, it was a necessary deal for the team. McCutchen isn’t a superstar, but he plays a key position pretty well and he is a fan favorite. Had the Pirates opted to trade him rather than build around him, it would have furthered the idea that they have no intention of trying to compete. Now they have their best player tied up for a very long time.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.