PITTSBURGH – The past week has been crazy with all of the Andrew McCutchen rumors going around. It got to the point where it seemed guaranteed he would be traded, and now it’s back to the point where the Pirates are moving forward with plans to have McCutchen on the team in 2017. If you thought it was crazy just following along, imagine what it was like for McCutchen.
The Pirates’ outfielder spoke with the media today for the first time about the trade discussions, including our own Sean McCool. Prior to that interview, he had a discussion with Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington about the trade talks.
“I’ve talked to Neal about everything, after everything was over,” McCutchen said. “We had a conversation. I do understand he has a job. I don’t understand what he has to do. I can’t empathize with that, just like he can’t empathize with what I was going through. We had a conversation. We ended it on good terms, and we went from there.”
McCutchen said that he was following the entire process just like everyone else, following the news and rumors on Twitter, waiting to see what would happen. But it’s not like this was a surprise to him. He said he started seeing trade rumors and speculation on his flight home from St. Louis following the last series of the year.
“I wasn’t even home yet when that popped up,” McCutchen said about the news alerts he received on his flight. “It wasn’t a surprise at all that possibility of me being traded, my name being on the trade block. It wasn’t a surprise at all. I knew there was a possibility, I know where I am with my contract, I know where we stand as a team.”
McCutchen said it was a surprise that he didn’t get traded, based on everything he read that indicated a trade was likely. He did say that he was happy to be in Pittsburgh, and discussed many times about how he’s always wanted to play his entire career in the city. There haven’t been any extension talks between him and the Pirates, and he’s realistic about where the game is at to know that he might end up somewhere else at some point in his career.
“I do want to be here,” McCutchen said. “I’d be lying to you if I told you that none of this bothered me. Of course it did. I’m human. If someone cuts you off while you’re driving, you get bothered. We’re all human. So to have my name be [mentioned] as possibly being traded, of course it got to me. We all have these dreams. My dream is to be a Pirate my whole career. My dream is to win the World Series. We all have those dreams. When my name popped up, it did make me think those dreams could be altered.”
McCutchen discussed signing his extension in 2012, and the thought at the time that he would be in Pittsburgh his entire career. But when asked about the extension, and whether he expected to play it out in Pittsburgh, he cited the changes to the game about how that might not be realistic.
“If you would have asked me this in 2012, if I would be in this position, with my name being thrown out in trades, I would have been like ‘Are you crazy?’ How the game has changed, and how things have evolved over time, it’s not a surprise that it has come up. That’s just the way the game is right now.”
There hasn’t been any talk of an extension, which makes sense as the Pirates have two very talent, young outfielders who are locked up for the long-term in Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, and have Austin Meadows, one of the game’s top prospects, in Triple-A. But McCutchen said that he’s still open to an extension.
“I’m always open,” McCutchen said. “That’s never changed for me. I want to be a Pirate, I want to retire a Pirate. That hasn’t changed.”
One other concern about an extension would be McCutchen’s down year in 2016. He had his worst year of his career across the board, including the continuation of some trends where his speed and defense have declined over the last three or four years. The thought was that his 2016 season was due to being injured, but McCutchen said that wasn’t the case.
“I just didn’t have it,” McCutchen said. “It just wasn’t there. It had nothing to do with injuries. We all have little nagging injuries here and there, and I had those, but there wasn’t something that hindered me from performing the way that I wanted to. I didn’t produce the way that I wanted to. That’s plain and simple.”
McCutchen was optimistic that he could bounce back, mentioning that the 2011 season was a down year for him, and he rebounded after that. He was asked if he was “motivated” to bounce back after the down year, to show that he still has it.
“I don’t know if that’s quote the word to look for,” McCutchen said. “It’s something higher than motivated. I’m hungry. I’m only 30. If you look at people who had great careers, guys who have been in the Hall of Fame, not everyone always hits .330 their whole career, especially in this day in age. You’re going to have your off years, but it’s what you do, and how you come back from that. I’m looking forward to this season. I’m ready to go. I can’t wait to get my feet back there on the field and get ready, and show that I’m not washed up, I guess. I’m only 30 years old. It’s not like I’m 40.”
There have been concerns from Pirates fans that the trade talks could provide a distraction and impact his play next season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, based on McCutchen’s positive attitude in the interview today, and his simple reaction to whether the trade talks will have an impact.
“Nothing is going to affect me. I’m ready to go.”