Pirates Pick Up 2018 Option for Andrew McCutchen; Decline Options for Stewart and LeBlanc

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Friday afternoon that they have picked up the 2018 option for center fielder Andrew McCutchen. They also announced that they have declined the options for catcher Chris Stewart and lefty reliever Wade LeBlanc.

McCutchen was an easy choice for his 2018 option. The Pirates had a $14.5 M option, which is just $500,000 more than he was paid this season. He hit .279/.363/.486 in 156 games this season.

Stewart was a decision between a $1.5 M option, or a $250,000 buyout. He hit .183/.241/.221 in 51 games this season. The Pirates have Elias Diaz as a backup option to Francisco Cervelli for the majors in 2018, along with Jacob Stallings as a strong Triple-A option.

LeBlanc had his option declined and the Pirates were able to send him outright to Indianapolis. He doesn’t have enough service time in to reach Major League free agency, but he can choose minor league free agency. LeBlanc had a $1.25 M option for 2018 and a $50,000 buyout. He had a 4.50 ERA, a 4.28 FIP and a 1.19 WHIP, with 54 strikeouts in 68 innings over 50 appearances this season.

  • Does anyone have an opinion on what team might be
    interested in the one year rental of Cutch.

    I realize at the salary he will earn next year
    he could be a bargain at 14.5 m,
    but what is his potential value in a trade?
    I know some folks have this numerical
    value he is worth. What can the pirates
    buy at that price?

    • Looking for a potential fit, you’d have to assume it’d be a team trying to contend in 2018 before starting a rebuilding or retooling process in 2019 that has a clear need for an outfielder. I think this would put Toronto as the most logical suitor with the Giants, Arizona, Rangers, and Mariners with the potential to have real interest as well. To a lesser extent I could see the Mets, Indians, and Nationals at least calling and asking to see what it would take to make a deal and you can add some other teams in on a case-by-case basis depending on other moves they make this off-season such as the Red Sox if they trade Jackie Bradley Jr. or the Royals if they don’t resign Lorenzo Cain. So there should be enough interest from around the league but as far as what the return would look like I imagine it won’t be anything too crazy which leads me to believe Cutch will be dealt at the deadline and not during the offseason.

      • I think he plays out the year because the Bucs will be in contention until the last week. The only question will be, will the Bucs extend a QO in the winter of 2018?

        • Can they still do that?

          If they can, I would think they would
          because I believe they would get
          some form of compensation if he
          would not accept. I do not know
          much about the complex rules.

  • Stewart had his time, but his services clearly were no longer needed. Brest of luck to stewie.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    November 3, 2017 10:47 pm

    Christmas came early – the Pirates finally rid themselves of Stewart. Only the Pirates saw any value in him and only the Pirates would have kept him on their 25 man, when they had a prospect like Diaz the past 2-3 years. Only the Pirates…

  • justinblain1996
    November 3, 2017 8:24 pm

    Stewart did his part. For all the crap people said about him, he was a pretty decent back up catcher. But time to move on and give Diaz a chance.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      November 3, 2017 10:51 pm

      Based on what metrics or stats do you make that assessment?

    • Maybe with his glove, but certainly not with his bat.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        November 4, 2017 8:37 pm

        His defensive stats (errors and percentage of base stealers thrown out) were among the worst in baseball. He was supposedly a good “pitch framer”, but little else. Good riddance.

    • This is not true. It was until last year, but in ’17 he had a negative .7 WAR with 6 errors. He’s a career 2.2 WAR backup which is great… He hit a wall. Through 2016 I agree with your statement, and I’m a big Stew supporter, but last year he was not good.

    • The sad part is that literally all of the downside from Stewart was self-inflicted. He was an excellent backup in his age 32 and 33 seasons, at which point Huntington doubled down and extended him.

  • BallHeadWonder
    November 3, 2017 5:15 pm

    John, behind Stallings, who has the best shot at the majors??? Looks like we need to be targeting catchers in next year’s draft!!

    • The Pirates signed catchers in the draft 4th and 5th round. Jin-De Jhang took awhile to get back on track after his oblique injury, but he has a chance to make the majors. I like Christian Kelley and think he has a shot at the majors as well. After him, you have Deon Stafford and Jason Delay from the draft. The Pirates have also spent international money on catchers with some potential, Yoel Gonzalez looked much better this season, Gabriel Brito, Samuel Inoa and Jommer Hernandez will man the lower three levels, all received decent six figure bonuses

      • The Pirates catching situation is a fricking mess. I’d trade all of those guys for the 7th rounder the Catds drafted in the 2016 draft.

  • Not sure I’d label Stallings as a ‘strong AAA option’. If he has to play significant time in 2018, the C position – again – will be seemingly well below average.

    FWIW, I’d look to trade Cervelli (if possible), promote Diaz to the starting option, and use whatever return (cash or player) towards a back-up C or SP assistance. Not sure paying Cervelli, and not playing Diaz, is the best use of assets.

    But, all decisions today were correct (and somewhat easy).

    • I’d say that Stallings appears to be a capable MLB back up catcher and would have no concerns with him taking Stewart’s spot (small praise, I know).

      • There’s no question Stallings is a strong Triple-A option. If anyone thinks he isn’t, they have an unrealistic expectation of what a Triple-A catching option should be.

    • I’d like to see a strong argument in favor of Diaz being more than 1 win more valuable than Stallings over a full season…

      • Hell, make it half a win.

        • You replied to yourself. Lol

          At this point, is Stallings not the better starting option? Diaz has regressed offensively since high A, Stallings has hit relatively well since high A, and he has always called and caught a good game.

      • After those two, it’s Jhang. Other than that, no catching help from within for about 4-5 years.

        Hmmmm…that didn’t come across as cheerfully as I thought it would…

        • Samuel Inoa has my attention but there’s only so much you can say about an 18 yo who hasn’t come stateside yet.

          The catcher position is easily the weakest of any in this organization, from top to bottom. You never draft for need, and we sure as hell shouldn’t trust Huntington to find a catcher through those means anyways, but the upcoming veteran trades almost *have* to return their catcher of the future. The situation is extremely dire.

    • The only problem is, Cervelli is untradeable.

      A league average hitter, who is healthy a little more than half the season, is on the wrong side of 30, and costs $11M?

      The pirates are stuck with him for two more seasons unless they want to eat, at least, a third of the salary, take on a bad contract in return, or include decent prospects in the deal.

      • Unfortunately, I think you’re right. Even if someone would take his salary, throw in a lottery ticket in low-A, and use the cost-savings towards a C or SP depth…that would be better than eating salary and waiting for Cervelli to get hurt.

        I just don’t buy Stallings and I don’t think the Pirates do either. Stallings, in all probability, is probably Stewart-lite, with similar offense, worse defense, and a better injury history.

      • I think Cervelli is worth right about what they are paying for him. If they get lucky and he gets hot at the plate and stays healthy he could be worth the rest of his contract in one season. He is on wrong side of 30 but he’s been hurt so much that he might be fresher than the average 31-32 year old catcher. (I know that sounds weird but his injuries have saved him a lot of reps behind the plate.) Don’t get me wrong, there is no reason to believe he would every have a healthy season but 450 ab, a .370 obp, and 7,8 HR with great framing is a pretty good catcher.

        • Ryan “Glass” Doumit

        • The Pirates have a lot of players the “are worth” what they are paid, but we need them to do more. Other money teams have players with salaries in the 20-25m and earn every penny. The difference is someone earning their salary at 20-25m is winning more games than ones getting 5-10m.
          I read on ESPN that was giving a pre, pre, pre power rating for MLB 2018. I think the Pirates were in the middle of the pack with a mention that with there talent, 75 win was very good.
          Maybe the Pirate front office and it’s fan base value the Bucco’s players to highly.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        November 3, 2017 10:50 pm

        That was and is one bad contract. He has his one career year 2 years ago, and instead of selling high they gave him a huge overpay. Now, after that one great season and getting the big contract, he can’t hit or stay healthy.

        • Easily said in hindsight

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD
            November 4, 2017 8:35 pm

            I said it at the time it was made – too much money for ONE good season and a player with an history of injuries.

            • We’re all correct at least some of the time. NH and company arent looking great here. Their model is to capitalize when they can by signing fielders and hitters, and sell on pitching. In the moment, I actually liked the cerv signing, but I also loved marte, polanco, and Harrison… I may be wrong lots more than most.

  • Certainly no brainers here. But some interesting and telling decisions coming up