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Can the Phillies expect much from Andrew McCutchen in 2020?

There is an old saying that goes something like “Father Time is undefeated.” It’s not actually true, as athletes such as Gordie Howe, Tom Brady, Roger Federer, Brett Favre, and Jack Nicklaus have proven. Baseball has seen the old man taken down by the likes of Randy Johnson, Bartolo Colon, and Jamie Moyer.

But in the overwhelming majority of his battles with professional athletes, Father Time will indeed come out victorious. Professional athletics is a young man’s game. As players push into and through their 30’s, without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) it is usually impossible for most to keep up for very long with newly arriving, talented youngsters.

In his 20’s, Andrew McCutchen was one of the best baseball players on the planet. He was the first round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2005 MLB Draft at 11th overall out of a Florida high school. Four years later he broke into the big-leagues in 2009 at age 22, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

For five straight years from 2011-15, McCutchen was an NL All-Star. In 2012 he won the NL Gold Glove Award for center fielders and took home the first of what would become four consecutive NL Silver Slugger Awards. For that performance he finished third in the NL MVP voting.

In 2013, McCutchen was the National League Most Valuable Player, leading the Pirates to the postseason for the first time in more than two decades. He would finish third in that MVP voting once again in 2014 and fifth in 2015.

McCutchen wrapped up his Pittsburgh run with a pair of seasons in 2016-17 that were still solid, but a notch below his MVP-caliber campaigns, and the Pirates dropped out of contender status.

In January 2018 the Pirates traded away their former superstar to the San Francisco Giants. He would move across the country to play with a new team at age 31.

McCutchen was clearly slowed down in the City by the Bay, and was forced to slide over from center to right field. His time in San Francisco wouldn’t last long. With the Giants out of contention he was dealt at the August 31 waiver deadline to the New York Yankees.

In the off-season, McCutchen became a free agent for the first time in his career. The Phillies inked him to a three-year deal on December 12, 2018 and penned him into the starting lineup as their new left fielder, allowing Rhys Hoskins to return to his natural position at first base.

Left field had become a revolving door position over the prior half-decade for the Phillies with Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche, Tyler Goeddel, and Domonic Brown all taking a turn as the starter at various times. While they knew McCutchen was no longer an MVP-caliber player, it was expected that he would provide veteran leadership and hold down the position for a few seasons.

The Phillies went to San Diego in early June in the midst of a west coast road trip with the club in first place in the National League East Division at 33-27. McCutchen was providing not only that leadership but also producing solid offensive numbers with 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored.

At that point, McCutchen had filled the role as Gabe Kapler‘s leadoff man perfectly. In fact, he was tops among all leadoff men in Major League Baseball in runs and walks, ranking fifth in on-base percentage and extra-base hits.

Then it all came to an end on what seemed like such an innocent play. McCutchen led off the June 2 opening game in San Diego with a walk. He was on first base when new shortstop Jean Segura popped up to second base. Segura slipped coming out of the batter’s box, and when he regained his footing did not run hard to first base.

The Padres second baseman was veteran Ian Kinsler, who noticed that Segura was not running hard. He decided to let the ball fall to the ground and try for a double play. McCutchen had stayed close to first base, assuming the pop-up would be caught. He suddenly had to run hard for second base, and was caught in a rundown. During the course of that rundown he twisted his knee and crumpled to the ground.

It would turn out that McCutchen had suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. He would miss the remainder of the season.

As the Phillies slumped out of the division lead over the next few weeks, Hoskins was quoted by Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer on the loss of McCutchen: “This guy does more for this clubhouse than maybe he even knows. He’s a presence in this lineup, a presence on the team and the field.

In mid-June, McCutchen underwent surgery to repair a medial meniscus and reconstruct the ACL in his left knee.

It has been a long, arduous process, but McCutchen’s rehab seems to be going well. He was quoted by John Perrotto of Forbes in early December:

There were so many times I tried to sit back and cry about it, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I knew I had to stay positive, concentrate on my rehab and come back strong. I feel great. I’m already looking forward to spring training.

From 2017-19 in his ages 30-32 seasons, McCutchen slashed a cumulative .265/.368/.455 and his production over a full season of 162 games would have averaged out to 26 home runs, 32 doubles, 80 RBIs, 98 runs, and 12 stolen bases.

However, the Phillies cannot expect to get 162 games out of McCutchen at age 33, especially coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. In fact, a best-case scenario for the club might involve a left field platoon with the right-handed bat of McCutchen and the lefty-hitting Jay Bruce.

McCutchen is a better defensive player at this point in their careers than Bruce, who will also turn 33 years of age at the start of April. So, while we wouldn’t be talking about a full platoon, Bruce could get 1-2 starts per week on average. Such an arrangement could keep both veterans healthy while maximizing their production.

On Christmas Eve, he and wife Maria welcomed their second child to the world with the birth of Armani X McCutchen. With a new addition to the family and an improving  physical condition, McCutchen is enthusiastic at this point and looking forward to helping the Phillies take a step forward in 2020.

The Phillies are hoping to actually contend over the entire season this time around, pushing for their first playoff berth in nine years. Getting a healthy, productive season from McCutchen would be just one of a number of things that need to go right with the club in order for that to happen.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson moving across state to Phillies

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Outfielder Corey Dickerson moving across the state

In a deal first reported by ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan, the Philadelphia Phillies have acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In exchange, the Phillies will be sending international slot money to Pittsburgh.

Dickerson is a 30-year-old left-handed hitter (fields right-handed) who was the eighth round choice of the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 MLB Draft out of Meridian Community College in his native Mississippi.
He debuted with the Rockies in the 2013 season, becoming their starting left fielder the following season. In January 2016, Dickerson was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays along with a prospect for pitcher German Marquez and Jake McGee.
With the Rays, Dickerson became the starting left fielder and a 2017 American League All-Star, blasting 51 home runs over the 2016-17 campaigns.
In February 2018, Dickerson was dealt to the Pirates for Daniel Hudson and a prospect. Last season in Pittsburgh, Dickerson won the National League Gold Glove Award for left fielders.
have acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for international signing bonus money and a player to be named later.

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This year, Dickerson injured his should in the first week and ending up spending more than two months on the Injured List. He returned and had put together a .317/.376/.556 slash line with four home runs, 18 doubles, 25 RBIs, and 20 runs scored over 141 plate appearances.
He left the Pirates series opener with the New York Mets this past Friday with a groin injury. But returning to the lineup on Tuesday night in Cincinnati, Dickerson blasted two home runs and drove in five during the Pirates brawl-filled victory over the Reds.
It has also been reported that the Phillies may send a player to be named later to Pittsburgh to complete the deal at a later date. In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Dickerson, the Phillies have DFA’d outfielder Dylan Cozens, who was out for the season after foot surgery back in May. Cozens will not likely be back with the Phillies next year.
Assuming he is fully healthy, Dickerson could start nearly every day for the Phillies in left field for the rest of this season. A free agent when the season ends, he is likely a two-month rental as the club tries to bolster their overall depth for a postseason run.

Phillies and Pirates rekindle cross-state rivalry with weekend series

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Phillies will spend a steaming hot July weekend at PNC Park

The Philadelphia Phillies (50-47) will be spending the next three days at one of the most beautiful ballparks in the game when they visit the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-50) for a weekend series.

The Pirates are struggling, losers in five of their last six and seven of their last 10 games. Though just 6.5 games out in the NL Central Division standings, the Bucs have not been able to rise above fourth place in their division since the start of June. They have not won more than three straight since mid-April.
For their part, the Phillies enter the series coming off a 2-2 split with the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers, but are still struggling mightily themselves to put back together what once appeared to be a winning season.
The Phillies went 3-4 on their just completed home stand in which they faced two tough teams in the Dodgers and division-rival Washington Nationals. They are just 7-9 going back over the last three weeks, since ending a four-game winning streak. While nine games over the .500 mark at home, they have fashioned only a 20-26 record on the road
Head-to-head, the Phillies won six of the seven games between the two clubs a year ago. However, that was the first time since their record-setting 2011 campaign that they had a winning seasonal mark against the Pirates.
Pittsburgh is 17th in MLB in runs per game (4.74), just behind the Phillies (4.84) who rank 15th. The Pirates are 13th among the 15 teams in the National League in home runs, 10th in stolen bases, and 9th in OPS. The Pittsburgh pitching staff is collectively ranked at 13th in the NL in both batting average and OPS against, ninth in strikeouts.
With the hot summer weather fully entrenched here in the eastern United States, and with two struggling pitching staffs, this could end up a high-scoring series. That is especially so if the Phillies do not get improved starting pitching, and if they can get into the Pirates bullpen by the middle innings.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Josh Bell: (26/1B) – .293/.367/.623, 27 HR, 84 RBIs, 61 extra-base hits, 71 runs. Bell finished third in the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year voting, made his first NL All-Star team earlier this month, and if the Pirates can reach the postseason will be a legitimate NL MVP candidate. On top of all that talent, he is also a switch-hitter.
Starling Marte: (30/CF) – .275/.316/.482, 16 HR, 52 RBIs, 37 extra-base hits, 59 runs. Marte was a 2016 NL All-Star and won Gold Glove Awards in both 2015-16.
Colin Moran: (26/3B) – .294/.334/.472, 10 HR, 50 RBIs, 27 extra-base hits, 31 runs. Lefty bat at the hot corner.
Kevin Newman: (25/SS) – .331/.370/.468, 6 HR, 35 RBIs, 20 extra-base hits, 26 runs. Pirates first round pick at 19th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft out of the University of Arizona was called up to stay in early May.
Bryan Reynolds: (24/LF) – .340/.413/.520, 7 HR, 37 RBIs, 28 extra-base hits, 40 runs. Giants second round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft was dealt to the Pirates in January 2018 along with reliever Kyle Crick in exchange for currently injured Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen. One of three switch-hitters in the Pittsburgh regular starting lineup.
Adam Frazier: (27/2B) – .281/.333/.407, 4 HR, 26 RBIs, 29 extra-base hits, 49 runs. Lefty bat is a solid, consistent hitter with a .281 average and .342 OBP in 1,322 big-league plate appearances.
Melky Cabrera: (34/RF) – .303/.339/.443, 6 HR, 21 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, 31 runs. 15-year MLB veteran switch-hitter signed with the Pirates back in February. He won a World Series ring when the New York Yankees defeated the Phillies back in 2009.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Chris Archer: The Phillies will not see Archer in this weekend’s series. This seems like a good time to shine the spotlight on him as we approach the 2019 MLB trade deadline with the Phillies linked to a number of talented starting pitchers. Archer was obtained by the Pirates from the Tampa Bay Rays at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for a pair of premium prospects, outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Tyler Glasnow.
A two-time AL All-Star with Tampa Bay, Archer had finished third in the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award voting while with the Rays during a freshman season in which he also made two relief appearances in the ALDS. The Bucs were in the midst of a playoff push, having won 16 of 20 games at the time of the deal in a stretch that pulled them within three games of an NL Wildcard berth and six games of the AL Central lead.
It didn’t work out. The Pirates struggled to a 26-27 record after obtaining Archer, who went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.357 WHIP over 10 starts with Pittsburgh. In this, the final year of his guaranteed contract, Archer has gone just 3-6 with a 5.36 ERA while getting bombed for an NL-high 22 home runs over 17 starts.
There are team options on his contract for $9 million next season and $11 million in 2021, when Archer will be just 31 and 32 years of age. Those are reasonable prices for an experienced pitcher with a winning pedigree. But there’s the rub – Archer does not have such a pedigree. His career record is just 60-77, and he has put together just two winning seasons, all the way back in 2013 and 2014. To pick up that option will be an interesting decision for the Pirates come this off-season.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Jordan Lyles – 28/RH:  5-6, 5.16 ERA, 1.400 WHIP, 74 hits over 75 IP across 15 starts with an 80/31 K:BB
SATURDAY 
Trevor Williams: 27/RH: 3-3, 5.17 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 88 hits over 76.2 IP across 13 starts with a 61/16 K:BB – SCRATCHED – ILLNESS – MUSGROVE (BELOW) TO START
SUNDAY – Joe Musgrove – 26/RH:6-8, 4.31 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, 102 hits over 104.1 IP across 20 games (19 starts) with a 90/26 K:BB. MOVED TO SATURDAY; SUNDAY SP NOW TBD
NOTE: The Pirates announced during Friday night’s game that Williams will not make his scheduled Saturday start due to illness. Musgrove will move to Saturday, and Sunday’s starter has yet to be determined.

THE SKIPPER

Clint Hurdle: The first-round choice of the Kansas City Royals at 9th overall in the 1975 MLB Draft, Hurdle appeared in 10 big-league seasons as a player between 1977-87. He appeared in 14 playoff games with the Royals, including in four of the five games of the 1980 World Series against the Phillies.
Hurdle managed the Colorado Rockies for parts of eight seasons from 2002-09, guiding them to the 2007 NL pennant, the only one in the history of the Rockies franchise, and their lone World Series appearance. However, that was his only winning season with Colorado. He was fired after 36 games in the 2009 season with the club at 18-28.
Hired to manage the Pirates in 2011, Hurdle guided the Bucs to three straight winning seasons from 2013-15. That included the first playoff appearance for the franchise in 21 years, and a 98-win season to cap the run off in 2015. The Pirates have enjoyed just one winning season since, last year’s disappointing 82-win campaign.
Coming out of last week’s MLB All-Star Game break, Hurdle was interviewd by MLB.com’s Adam Berry as quoted by Jim Sankey of Allied News“We’ve had multiple opportunities during the first half to find out what we are capable of doing when it maybe wasn’t the way we thought we were going to do it. From that standpoint, I still believe the best is yet to come.
However, the Pirates lost five of six games after returning from the break on the road in Chicago and Saint Louis. This series will mark their first time in front of the home fans in nearly two weeks. If they don’t turn it back around quickly, Hurdle could find his job on the line.

THE BALLPARK

PNC Park is widely considered as one of the most beautiful ballparks in America. That reputation comes largely from the views of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline and the iconic yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge over the outfield walls. The bridge is closed on game days, which allows fans to park in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle and then walk across the bridge to the ballpark. The ballpark is unique in its use of limestone in the building’s facade, and also features steel truss work and a riverside concourse.
It is 325 feet to left, 383 to left-center, 410 feet to what is known as deep left-center, and then a wall jut-in brings the fences to a 399 oot to dead center field. It is then 375 to right-center, and 320 feet down the right field line.
PNC Park has hosted the 2006 MLB All-Star Game. During those festivities, Ryan Howard of the Phillies won the Home Run Derby.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

FRIDAY: It will be 89 degrees with a real-feel of 98 at the 7:05 PM EDT first pitch. Winds will be light, and there is almost no chance of precipitation.
SATURDAY: Getting hotter with a game time 7:05 PM EDT first pitch temp of 93 degrees, feeling like 102. Winds will remain light, and there is again almost no chance of precipitation.
SUNDAY: Scattered thunderstorms can be expected for the 1:35 PM EDT first pitch and all during this game. Temps will be around 90 degrees with real-feels at just over 100. While winds remain light, there is a 35-45% chance of those thunderstorms passing through on Sunday as of the start of this series.
Pittsburgh, PA weekend forecast from The Weather Channel

Andrew McCutchen begins a career second act with the Phillies

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The 2013 NL MVP brings veteran talent to the Phillies

For the first time in three years the Philadelphia Phillies have a former big-league Most Valuable Player on their roster as Grapefruit League games get underway down in Clearwater, Florida.

It was three years ago that Ryan Howard, who had been the National League MVP a decade earlier, took part in his final spring training with the Phillies.
On December 12, the Phillies signed 33-year-old 10-year big-league veteran Andrew McCutchen to a three-year contract as a free agent. McCutchen was the 2013 NL Most Valuable Player while playing his ball across the state with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The first-round choice of the Bucs at 11th overall in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in his native Fort Meade, Florida, McCutchen’s power-speed combination helped him grow into one of baseball’s top prospects over the next four years.
In June of 2009, “Cutch” made his debut in Major League Baseball. He would bang 47 extra-base hits and steal 22 bases in just 108 games that year to finish fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
During the 2010 season he rapped out 56 extra-base hits, scored 94 runs and stole 33 bases. Then in 2011, McCutchen became a National League All-Star for the first time.
The 2012 Pirates suffered through the 20th consecutive losing season. But things were starting to look up as the club won 79 games for the first time in 15 years. McCutchen was leading the way. He led the league with 194 hits and banged a career-high 31 home runs with 96 RBI, 107 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases.
For his outstanding season, McCutchen finished third in the NL MVP voting. He also won a Gold Glove Award for his play in center field and took home the first of what would be four consecutive Silver Slugger honors.
It was his performance during the 2013 season that would earn McCutchen his Most Valuable Player honors. He slashed .317/.404/.508 with 64 extra-base hits, 97 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. He also led the Pirates to a 94-win season and an NL playoff berth.
That was the first of three consecutive postseason appearances for the Pirates. McCutchen had two hits and two walks as the Bucs swamped the Cincinnati Reds by a 6-2 score in the 2013 NL Wildcard Game. Pittsburgh then took a 2-1 lead in the NLDS before the Saint Louis Cardinals rallied past them to take the series in five games.

The Pirates would return to the NL Wildcard Game in each of the next two seasons after finishing in second place in the NL Central Division both times. But they were shutout at PNC Park both times, by the visiting San Francisco Giants 8-0 in 2014 and the Chicago Cubs 4-0 in 2015.
McCutchen put up big seasons both years, finishing among the top five in NL MVP both times. He put up solid seasons in both 2016 and 2017, but the Pirates slipped from contending status.
In January 2018 the Pirates traded McCutchen, who was due to become a free agent after that coming season, to San Francisco for a pair of prospects. On August 31 of last season, the Giants flipped him to the New York Yankees, again for a pair of prospects.
McCutchen, who maintains his home in Pittsburgh, will always hold his first organization close to his heart. He was quoted on that relationship by Bob Brookover of Philly.com:
I got drafted by them at 18 and when you come up through an organization that’s all you know. You develop relationships with the fans and you experience highs and lows. I was able to experience all of that. I didn’t experience the championship, but I experienced a playoff atmosphere and there were a lot of things to appreciate. There are a lot of memories and things I hold dear to me. It was a great place and I would always have that as the first half of my career.

Starting for the Yankees at first in right field and then in left field, McCutchen had a quiet postseason with the Bronx Bombers. He produced just two hits while scoring twice and knocking in a run over 19 plate appearances as the Yankees were knocked out in the ALDS by the arch-rival Boston Red Sox.
After the season, McCutchen became a free agent for the first time, leading to his signing with the Phillies. His contract guarantees him $47 million over the next three seasons and contains a $15 million team option for the 2022 campaign when he would be 35-years-old.

McCutchen is slated to start in left field with the Phillies, allowing Rhys Hoskins to move back to his more comfortable and natural position at first base. He joins a returning outfield mix that includes Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr. It’s a group that could be joined soon by another former NL MVP, Bryce Harper.
Per the Associated Press, McCutchen recognizes the incumbent talent, and would welcome the addition of another star:
We’ve got a lot of guys who are competing for positions, and that’s a good thing to have in camp. Everybody is out there working hard. Working to win the job, or even if they don’t, they know they could be the next man up. The competition is good for the outfield as a whole….We will be able to help each other out, and I can share my knowledge and my experience.
That experience should prove invaluable. More than 1,500 big-league games, another 13 in the postseason, and five MLB All-Star Game appearances. No longer an MVP-caliber player, he retains enough skill and athleticism at age 32 to upgrade the Phillies lineup.
That is what McCutchen hopes to do with the Phillies – add his skills to the other team upgrades, helping to push the club back to contending status and ultimately to the postseason.

Sean Rodriguez signs with Phillies and could bring veteran versatility to club

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The Phillies signed Sean Rodriguez and invited him to spring training

The Philadelphia Phillies announced the signing of another free agent on Friday morning. Unfortunately, he once again is not the name that fans are hoping to hear.

Sean Rodriguez is a 33-year-old (turns 34 in late April) multi-positional player with 11 years of big-league experience. The Miami, Florida native was originally drafted by the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels in the third round of the 2003 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Miami high school.
Rodriguez rose through the Angels minor league system before finally making his Major League Baseball debut during the 2008 campaign. After appearing in 71 games for the Angels over the 2008-09 seasons he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays in December 2009 as the player-to-be-named-later in a trade in August of that year in which the Angels had landed pitcher Scott Kazmir.
Rodriguez would play five seasons with Tampa Bay, becoming a versatile piece for manager Joe Maddon, who used Rodriguez at every position other than pitcher or catcher during that time. He also appeared in a dozen postseason games with the Rays between 2010-13, with seven of those coming as a starter.

In December 2014, Tampa Bay shipped Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he would help the Bucs reach their third consecutive NL Wildcard Game. After two years in the Steel City, Rodriguez signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent. The Braves dealt him back to the Pirates in August 2017, and Rodriguez again played last season in Pittsburgh.
Over his 11-year career, Rodriguez has slashed .226/.300/.380 with 77 home runs and 119 doubles over 2,761 plate appearances. His best season came in 2016 with Pittsburgh when he produced career highs of 18 homers and 56 RBI, slashing .270/.349/.510 over 140 games.
How many players in the history of baseball have played 7 positions (not even including DH) in 3 straight seasons? Sean Rodriguez has.

And he’s now played 6+ positions (not counting DH) in 6 straight seasons.

Anyone want to research that one? America needs to know!

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Particularly known for his versatility, Rodriguez has played the following positions, with total games in parentheses: first base (212), second base (335), shortstop (176), third base (130), left field (116), center field (25), right field (65), with no career appearances on the mound or behind the plate.

Rodriguez may be the best of a number of long shot veterans who the Phillies have signed and invited to spring training in Clearwater, Florida. That list includes catcher Rob Brantly, infielders Andrew Romine and Gregorio Petit, outfielder Shane Robinson, and lefty pitchers Edward Paredes and Jeremy Bleich.