Right Field

Debate Over: The Pirates are Committed to Winning

News broke early this morning that the Pirates had locked up Andrew McCutchen, perhaps the most exciting center fielder in the game. According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the six-year deal should be “worth $51.5 million with a club option for 2018 worth $14.75 million.”

McCutchen, 25, enjoyed a solid 2012, posting a wOBA of .360 and slugging 23 home runs from the leadoff spot, accumulating in the process a most respectable 5.7 fWAR.

In response, Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout bellows, “Hallelujah!” He adds:

Well done, Pirates, and kudos to [controlling owner] Bob Nutting for opening the wallet on this one. Parsing the finances isn’t really the point, I don’t think; this deal is roughly similar to the ones Jay Bruce and Justin Upton got, and those were the deals the negotiations between McCutchen and the Pirates seemed to revolve around. The Bucs got an option on a seventh year out of the deal, which Bruce got and Upton didn’t, so that’s a nice bonus.

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke’s Pat Lackey also appears to be a happy camper:

We already knew that McCutchen would be a Pirate through 2015, now we’ve got certainty for 2016 and 2017, too. It’s hard to see how this is anything except great news.

Notice neither writer suggests that the Pirates will play meaningful games this September and a 20th consecutive losing season remains likely. However, the future is looking considerably brighter.

And let’s toss in a teaspoon of pop psychology for good measure. Although Nutting and general manager Neal Huntington deserved kudos for committing significant resources to both the amateur draft and the pursuit of foreign talent, I wrote here last April that the No. 1 way to convince the beleaguered fanbase that the franchise was truly committed to building a winner would be securing their star center fielder’s services long-term.

Congrats, all around!

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.


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