The Pittsburgh Pirates made quite the splash on Friday, bringing back a familiar face to the fold for the 2023 season.
One of the most iconic players to ever play for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen returned to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal worth $5 million.
This signing has obviously opened up all the nostalgic feelings that you would expect from a player that was the face of the organization during their last run of success.
He’s obviously a different player than he was in those days, but nonetheless, a solid signing for the Pirates that you felt needed a ‘W’ with the mess that has come with the Bryan Reynolds situation.
While this is certainly a feel good moment for the Pirates, and the fanbase, and even though he isn’t the same player that he was during his previous time with the team, that doesn’t mean this is completely a PR stunt.
McCutchen is coming off a 17-home run season with the Milwaukee Brewers, and while he finished just under league average when it comes to wRC+ (98), there’s still plenty there to think he can get back over the 100 mark like he has been the rest of his career.
Seen mostly as a platoon option, he was slightly below average against righties this past year (95 wRC+), it was actually his highest mark since 2019. With such a lefty-heavy outfield currently on the 40-man roster, not only does he give them a platoon option but he’s still a borderline everyday player.
The main question is where he is going to play defensively. Since Baseball Savant started tracking Outs Above Average in 2016, only five players have a worse OAA (-36) than McCutchen does. He did break even with the Brewers in 2022, although the majority of the season he spent as the team’s DH.
Baseball Savant isn’t the only outlet that hasn’t graded McCutchen favorable defensively, in fact, this is nothing new even going back to his original days in Pittsburgh. He posted a -26 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2016 with the Pirates, following that up with a -12 mark in 2017.
Even in his MVP season in 2013, he posted just a +3 DRS, which is one less than what Baseball Reference actually graded him this past season in left field (+4).
I had written previously about how, despite there being plenty of options, the outfield picture seemed to have more questions than it should. While we will have to wait and see how much he factors into the actual outfield picture, this signing certainly helps cement a good amount of the questions.
Deadline For Arbitration Eligible Players
The Pirates came to terms with four of their five arbitration eligible players before the deadline on Friday, with Ji-Man Choi the only one not signing.
The rotation continues to look more and more solidified, with JT Brubaker and Mitch Keller both signing to go along with Rich Hill, Roansy Contreras, and for now, Vince Velasquez. You can argue about the last one, but his contract probably locks him in for a couple of starts this upcoming season.
It will be really interesting to see if Brubaker and Keller can build off their 2022 seasons. Keller really started to come into his own as a reliable starter, the next step with consistency. Brubaker is interesting as some of his base numbers aren’t eye popping, but if you dig deeper, he had a better season than it shows on paper and fits perfectly as a backend starter, even on a competing team.
The bullpen will be interesting and if everyone stays mostly healthy and settles into a role, it could be far deeper than it was the previous year. Robert Stephenson was one of the more reliable pitchers on the team after being acquired, and Duane Underwood Jr. keeps hanging around.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**The Pirates are bringing back Andrew McCutchen. And there was much rejoicing.
**The Pirates avoided arbitration with four players, leaving only Ji-Man Choi off the list.
**In the latest Pirates Discussion, Jeff Reed looks at the upcoming international signing period, as well as the history of the Pirates developing international prospects.
**Sammy Siani and Ernny Ordonez picked up two hits each in the latest Pirates winter league update.
Song of the Day
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.