|Pirates could contend with Cutch, or deal him|
BUCS BIGGEST TRADE CHIP
Playing a large part in that regression was an atypical poor season from star center fielder Andrew McCutchen. For five straight years from 2011-15, ‘Cutch’ had been clutch. An NL All-Star each of those years, he was awarded Silver Sluggers each season from 2012-15. He was also a top five finisher in the NL MVP race each of those last four seasons, capturing the honors in 2013.
Now, McCutchen has returned to that star-level production. In 380 plate appearances the now 30-year old has hit for a .294/.382/.518 slash line. His 57 runs scored and 38 extra-base hits lead the ball club. And with seven stolen bases, McCutchen has already swiped one more bag than he did all of last season.
The Pirates have a $14.75 million team option on his contract for next season, after which he would become an absolute free agent. They could also buy him out for $1 million, but that’s not going to happen now.
Though he is again, he is not yet old. His return to production has to be encouraging for any potential trade partner. So does the fact that you can have him for at least one more season beyond this at a reasonable price.
McCutchen is not the only potential trade chip for Pittsburgh. Third baseman David Freese is now 34-years old. He is signed through next season to an extremely affordable deal. Freese carries a .371 on-base percentage, and has a wealth of postseason experience.
MORE PIECES COULD ALSO BE MOVED
The Pirates also have a pair of experienced, serviceable lefty relievers in Tony Watson and Wade LeBlanc. Southpaws are always in demand at this time of year as team’s with postseason aspirations try to improve their bullpens.
Right-handed starter Ivan Nova is now 30 years old. He is signed for two more seasons at just over $9 million per. With a 9-6 record, 3.21 ERA, 1.094 WHIP he could be an attractive piece for anyone looking to shore up their pitching rotation.
Which way will Huntingdon choose to go? Much may hinge on whether the Pirates can extend their recent winning ways out another week or so. If they begin to cool again, they will have made their general manager’s decision much easier.