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 Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.
It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.
The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.
So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.