The Pirates should give Andrew McCutchen a Scherzer-esque extension
Max Scherzer’s 7-year, $210 million deal shook up everyone that follows MLB and the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, that shock subsided and it was revealed that the deal wasn’t as earth-shattering as previously thought. Half of that $210 million is deferred, allowing the supposedly-large market Washington Nationals to stay competitive in the free agent market.
Deferred contracts are nothing new, with the most well-known story being former Pirate Bobby Bonilla’s incredible contract with the Mets paying him until 2035 (!). A ton of questions started swirling in my mind after hearing about Scherzer’s contract. Was this a good move or foolishness for a club, any club, to commit that much money in the future to any one player? On top of that a pitcher who will appear only in 30-35 games for you (in a best case scenario.) It’s a huge swing-for-the-fences type of gamble for any ball club, in any sized market.
A reader by the name of Ron Loreski on Facebook posed a great question recently: “Should the Pittsburgh Pirates sign someone to an extension like Scherzer’s?” Immediately, the wheels started spinning. Is there a player on the Bucs who would warrant such a commitment? Perhaps more to the point, is there anyone on the team who would be the kind of guy to take such a deal? The answer is pretty simple, really.
Obvious, I know. So is he worth the huge risk and commitment of a Scherzer-esque pact? Let’s take a look. Cutch is 28 years old and will be 32 years old at the end of his current deal. In the single greatest front-office move in Pirate history, Neal Huntington locked him up for far below what his going market rate would have been. Would it not make a ton of sense for Neal to go to Cutch and rip up that contract and go for a longer one, with deferred money? For his part, Cutch wants to be a Pirate. Here it is, in his own words, from a fairly recent interview by Rob Biertempfel at the Tribune Review:
"“This is where I want to be. I don’t know anything else outside of here. I think for every player, the dream is being on one team for the rest of their career. That’s the way I want to be. I want to be comfortable here. I want to win championships here. I want to raise a family here. I have a lot of history here, since I was 18. A lot of things have happened. I met my wife here. For me to go someplace else and start something new … I’d rather be here and keep creating history here. I can see that happening. I see things moving in that direction, and I hope it can happen.”"
Just reading that quote gives me goosebumps. McCutchen has shown that is dependable, multi-talented, a team player…all of the attributes you want as the face of your franchise. He is durable also, as long as teams decide not to throw at him. For this team to remain competitive, the front office has to think creatively in certain spots. No one wants the Pirates to have another Bonilla-type contract, but when you identify the right player, at the right time, in the right situation, ALL options should be considered. What about taking the current deal and reworking it for a slight raise now, and then add another 5 years with deferred money after the contract is up? If you want to make a gamble this, you had better do your homework. Well, a three-time consecutive finalist for the NL MVP award is all the homework a front office would need, in my opinion. For a club that is changing before our eyes, this type of moonshot can energize a team and attract free agents. It would send another clear message to fans that Cutch is not another Barry Bonds, Brian Giles, or Jason Bay.
And that alone just might be worth the gamble. Andrew McCutchen should be extended.