PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – It seemed like it was a slam dunk, but the Pirates took some time before deciding to bring back Andrew McCutchen.
It wasn’t a money reason, rather they wanted to make sure they would have a place for their former MVP. This wasn’t a normal free agent signing. They knew the gravity of what he meant to the franchise.
Bucs GM Ben Cherington said they took his stature into account, they didn’t want to open the door formally until they were certain they had a role for him. Basically, they didn’t want to toy around with him until they knew for sure they weren’t looking at someone else and he would have the opportunity to play a major role with this team.
“There was communication between Andrew and (owner) Bob (Nutting) that really helped us,” Cherington said on Friday. “It was a message that he was really interested in this and that was so helpful to know. We had to do the work to figure out-can we pursue this formally. Can we get to a role that makes sense? I really wanted to make sure of that before we made an offer.”
“In some cases in free agency you can do the dance where if these three or four things happen, we may come back to you. I didn’t want to do that in this case.”
From that standpoint it took some time, but after they had those conversations, the offer came quickly. Cherington said they were glad to be able to do it and fortunate he was still available.
They did not discuss a multi-year deal, he said not because they worry he can’t play. Cherington believes he can, and will, play in the field often.
“One of the things you see, he’s maintained high-end sprint speed, maintained high-end bat speed, swing decisions,” Cherington said. “I know he mentioned DH-ing some, he will probably do that, but he will be in the outfield too. We believe he is going to help this team on the field. The way he takes care of himself, I don’t see any reason why he won’t keep playing past this year.”
To the point of helping the team, it’s not just as a player. McCutchen has always embraced being more than just a player, as he said on Friday he treats his teammates as human beings. There is a lot that goes with that and Cherington hopes the team taps into his experiences, especially those of winning Pirates teams.
“It’s nice to have those models in the room,” Cherington said. “Andrew used the word belief and that’s such an important word in where we are. Belief often comes through the reps, the experience, hearing from someone else that you can to this too. Good teams do believe in themselves and that’s something we aim to be here.”
“It’s important to us, any player in that clubhouse, there is an expectation that we will prepare the right way.
Going into games expecting to win and I feel like we’ve added some guys this offseason that have learned how to do that and done it consistently, including Andrew.”
They have one of their all-timers back, now what will they do with it?