The Pirates and Andrew McCutchen have agreed to a one-year, $5MM deal, per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on X. In a longer post, Mackey relays that the deal could be officially announced as soon as Wednesday, though it’s still pending a physical. McCutchen is represented by Aegis Sports Management.
It’s a reunion that has long been expected. McCutchen is a franchise icon with the Pirates and returned to Pittsburgh in 2023. All reporting during the year suggested that the two sides were happy with each other and both expected McCutchen to continue playing for the Bucs for the remainder of his career. Since Cutch suffered a partial tear of his Achilles in September, the club appeared to want to wait a bit to make things official, but reporting from last week suggested the two sides were starting to accelerate talks.
McCutchen, 37, isn’t quite the MVP-winning performer from earlier in his career but can still swing it. He signed a one-year, $5MM deal to rejoin the Pirates for 2023, hitting 12 home runs and drawing walks in 15.9% of his plate appearances. His .256/.378/.397 batting line translated to a wRC+ of 115, indicating he was 15% better than the league average hitter overall. He also still flashed a bit of baserunning prowess, stealing 11 bases in 14 tries.
Defensively, he was almost exclusively a designated hitter, spending just 64 2/3 innings in right field. He is likely to be in a similar role this year, having returned via the same $5MM deal that he signed a year ago. The Pirates will likely be delighted with a comparable performance but are surely also signing McCutchen for leadership and veteran presence, as well as being a treat for fans. Jack Suwinski and Bryan Reynolds will likely have two everyday spots in the outfield locked down. Edward Olivares, Joshua Palacios, Connor Joe and others should be battling for playing time in one corner, though McCutchen will perhaps jog out to the grass from time to time.
The season-ending injury forced McCutchen to miss the last few weeks of the 2023 campaign, with his last appearance coming on September 4. That kept him from hitting his 300th career home run during the campaign, as he’s currently parked on 299. But he should have plenty of opportunities to hit that milestone next year, which will appropriately come in a Pirates’ uniform. From 2009 to 2017, McCutchen was a five-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove in 2012 and National League MVP in 2013.
The heyday of McCutchen coincided with the club’s last competitive window. They made the playoffs in three straight years from 2013 to 2015 but haven’t been back since. The 2023 campaign featured an encouraging record of 76-86, still below .500 but their best finish since 2018. If the club’s young core is able to take a step forward and return to the postseason, then McCutchen could be a nice throughline connecting the two eras of baseball in Pittsburgh.
Roster Resource now pegs the club’s 2024 payroll at $70MM, just a bit below last year’s Opening Day figure of $73MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. General manager Ben Cherington has suggested that the payroll could push upwards next year, though it’s unclear exactly how far they are willing to go. In the post from Mackey linked above, he hints that the club may be making an addition to its pitching staff soon, likely via trade.