Pittsburgh Pirates: Hang on to McCutchen for Now

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27: Andrew McCutchen; (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27: Andrew McCutchen; (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Editorial: The Pittsburgh Pirates are climbing back into things as far as the National League Central is concerned.  Beyond that, there is another reason to hang on to Andrew McCutchen for the rest of 2017.

This past off-season, the biggest rumor surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates was the possibility of trading star outfielder Andrew McCutchen.  When no deal developed, and Spring Training started, the question was not, “Will the Pirates trade McCutchen?” but “when will they trade Cutch?”

Many speculated that by the trade deadline the Pittsburgh Pirates would be out of contention and be looking to sell off player’s with expiring contracts.  Fans were prepared that Andrew McCutchen would likely be dealt this July.  The only question that was remaining was whether he would boost his value enough to get a significant enough return.  Well, one thing was right, Cutch did boost his value.  Cutch’s numbers are back to his career line, and he looks, once again, like the impact player every team would want.  However, the thing that has not completely played out is that the Pittsburgh Pirates have not fallen out of the race quite yet.

What Should the Pirates do With Cutch?

So the question remains what do the Pittsburgh Pirates do with Andrew McCutchen?  There are less than two weeks before the trade deadline.  Should the Pirates look to trade McCutchen while he is performing at his highest level since 2015?  Or should the Bucs keep him, continue to make the playoff push, and hope that he continues to perform at a high level?  If they continue to make a playoff push with McCutchen performing well, the Pittsburgh Pirates could have trade talks over the offseason.

As much as these two questions are the main focus, one trade that was made could help the Pittsburgh Pirates decision process going forward.  Even if the Pirates scuffle heading into the trade deadline, they still should keep the former MVP for the rest of this season.  This is mainly because of a trade involving an outfielder just yesterday.

JD Martinez Trade Set the Market for Outfielders

Yesterday, the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired now former Detroit Tiger left fielder J.D. Martinez.  Martinez is having a really good season, and actually has the edge on Cutch at this point in terms of OPS and batting average.  With that being said, the Diamondbacks did not have to part with much to grab the all-star caliber outfielder.  On paper, Arizona gave up their number prospect, number 15 prospect, and another prospect.  Seems like a good haul, but then consider Arizona has one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and the number prospect does not even rank in Detroit’s top 10 prospects.  So essentially, the Diamondbacks gave up 3 lottery tickets for an impact player.

The Bar has Been Set…Low

Now, the only difference between Cutch and Martinez is the fact that McCutchen has one year of control left while Martinez is a pending free agent.  So that would obviously require a team to give up more.  Still, the Pittsburgh Pirates were aiming for multiple top 100 prospects this past offseason for McCutchen, the Diamondbacks and Tigers just set the market for the outfield trade market.

Next: A reliever the Pirates should target

The bar was set very low.  So whether or not the Pirates are in buy or sell mode within the next ten days, the market is the real dictating factor for any Andrew McCutchen trade.  Barring a significant injury over the next week or so, there is not a high demand for outfielders right now.  With that, teams who are inquiring are not in a position to part with top talent to get one.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are likely better off to hold onto Cutch until this offseason when there are more teams looking to build their 2018 lineups.  At a salary of just $14.75 million for the 2018 season, a below average rate for a player such as McCutchen, the amount of teams that will be interested also increases.  More teams will have holes to fill, and McCutchen will provide a below average salary to that team, therefore his value in the trade market will be higher in the offseason instead of the regular season with more teams competing to acquire him via trade.