PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Pirates owner Bob Nutting said when they signed Andrew McCutchen to a one-year deal this offseason they wanted him to be a Pirate for as long as he wants. He heads into free agency with an Achilles injury that could require surgery. Do the Bucs want him back?
“We believe that the injury he's recovering from right now should not get in the way of him being a good baseball player next year and being someone who can help us,” said Pirates general manager Ben Cherington. “We've agreed that we'll pick that conversation up when the season is over.”
It was a team that before his signing this Winter was searching for a designated hitter. McCutchen filled that role with 19 doubles, 12 home runs, 43 RBI, .256 average, .397 on-base percentage, .776 OPS in 112 games. Oneil Cruz and Henry Davis are potential DH candidates for next year, although Cruz wants to play short, there would be room for a veteran in that role. It will also be a clubhouse that, as we sit right now, has only 20-somethings Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes as long-term leaders. Cherington believes he’s served that role well.
“We miss him even in the time that he's been gone,” Cherington said Wednesday. “I think just the quality of the at bats in the middle of the lineup. It's just a very mature, disciplined at bat, you can pretty much count on it and even when he's not getting on base it's usually a good at bat and it has helped our lineup, it's helped us and I don't see any particular reason why that can't continue."
Cherington said he looks forward to getting with McCutchen in a couple of weeks to discuss his thoughts on the future to get more clarity.
“We still need more information about the rest of the team too and sort of how the roster comes together but certainly want that door to be open and looking forward to talking with Andrew about it more once the season is over,” Cherington said.
McCutchen said he didn’t sign for 2023 to be a farewell tour. He believed they were improved and could win. For at least the first month of the season they were good and since the trade deadline have been at worst an average baseball team judging results even without Cruz, all of the youth and roster turnover.
He also made the team money, immediately upon signing, McCutchen sold tickets. He still carries the cache of being one of the best players in team history even if the newness of a return as worn off.
“I don't understand enough about sort of the correlations between those things but I know what it felt like, I know what the reaction felt like when we signed him last offseason,” Cherington said. “I know what it felt like to hear that crowd on his first day back here and really the reaction to him throughout the season. Every time he came up to the plate it was kind of a different sound than (when) some other guys come up to the plate so I think in that sense it's obvious to all of us that it means something and hopefully there's a lot more good moments out there with him."
There is also the question of what McCutchen thinks. After he goes home following the season, having to recover from an injury, will he want to continue to play? What does the soon-to-be 37-year-old think of a roster that currently has one other player over 30-years-old? Does he really believe this team can win next season?
It appears another year of the reunion is in order but not before some questions are answered on both sides.