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.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉