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.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.