PITTSBURGH — Andrew McCutchen served as the centerpiece for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ long-awaited renaissance a decade ago.
The veteran outfielder is coming back home, hoping to serve as a mentor to a young group trying to follow in his footsteps.
A person with knowledge of the agreement tells the Associated Press that McCutchen, a five-time All-Star and the 2013 National League MVP for the Pirates earlier in his career, has agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the club. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the agreement is pending a successful physical.
The signing is a homecoming for the 36-year-old McCutchen, who helped guide the Pirates to three straight playoff berths from 2013-15 after two decades of losing. He was traded to San Francisco in January 2018 in a cost-cutting move in a swap that sent outfielder Bryan Reynolds, then a prospect in the Giants organization, to Pittsburgh.
McCutchen’s return comes as the Pirates are shopping Reynolds, Pittsburgh’s everyday centerfielder and an All-Star himself in 2021. Reynolds requested a trade last month.
Though he’s been gone for five years, McCutchen remains beloved in his adopted hometown. He’s been greeted warmly whenever he’s played at PNC Park in a visitor’s uniform and joked while visiting Pittsburgh last season with the Brewers that it was nice to sleep in his own bed for once.
He’ll get a chance to do it far more frequently in 2023.
McCutchen spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Pirates and still maintains a residence in the area. He’s bounced around since being traded to the Giants, splitting time between San Francisco and the New York Yankees in 2018. He spent three seasons with the Phillies from 2019-21 and played for Milwaukee last season.
McCutchen hit .237 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs for the Brewers in 2022.
The deal adds another experienced voice to a team that has spent the offseason bringing in veteran pitcher Rich Hill and first baseman Carlos Santana on one-year deals of their own in hopes they can provide leadership to a young core that includes shortstop Oneil Cruz.
No active player knows more about what it takes to snap the Pirates out of the doldrums than McCutchen.
A first-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2005 draft, McCutchen’s dazzling play in the field and electric hitting at the plate fueled the franchise’s turnaround after 20 years of losing. The Pirates reached the playoffs as a wild card in three straight seasons from 2013-15, advancing to the NL Division Series in 2013.
McCutchen was at his best during the height of Pittsburgh’s resurgence. He finished in the top three in NL MVP voting from 2012-14, winning the award in 2013 when he hit .317 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs.
McCutchen hit .291 with 203 home runs, 725 RBIs and 171 stolen bases during his first stint with the Pirates.
He returns to Pittsburgh with the club hoping to show signs of progress in 2023 following the top-to-bottom overhaul general manager Ben Cherington began when he took over in the fall of 2019. The Pirates are coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons but have spent the last three years stockpiling prospects nearing their arrival in the majors.
Pittsburgh also agreed to one-year contracts with four arbitration-eligible players before Friday’s scheduled exchange of proposed salaries, reaching deals with pitchers Mitch Keller ($2,437,500), JT Brubaker ($2,275,000), Robert Stephenson ($1.75 million) and Duane Underwood Jr. ($1,025,000).
The Pirates did not yet come to an agreement with first baseman/designated Ji-Man Choi, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay last November. The 31-year-old Choi made $3.2 million in 2022 while hitting .233 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games for the Rays.