News: Players around baseball are having their options picked up or declined today. The Pirates had three players in which to decide on, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Stewart, and Wade LeBlanc.
None of the decisions the club made were difficult to predict. The club exercised Andrew McCutchen’s option for $14.5 million, declined the options for both Chris Stewart and Wade LeBlanc, and LeBlanc has been outrighted to Indianapolis. Stewart’s option was for $1.5 million and Wade LeBlanc’s was $1.25 million. Those declined options featured $250,000 and $50,000 buyouts respectively.
McCutchen’s option being picked up by the Pirates has no impact on his future with the Pirates. The club wasn’t going to let him walk without receiving any form of compensation, and a trade or him playing out the rest of his contract was always going to be the end point. Neal Huntington at the end of the season, via the Pittsburgh Tribune, said,
"“We believe our best club in 2018 has Andrew in center field. He’s worked hard to be the best defensive center fielder he can be.”"
McCutchen in 2017 hit .279/.363/.486 and posted a fWAR of 3.7 in 65o plate appearances. He came off a down 2016 season, in which both his base running and defense were career lows. He posted a -3.0 BsR and -28 defensive runs saved, and the Pirates moved him off of center entering 2017. He rebounded, posting a 1.3 BsR and -12 runs saved. He’ll never be the base runner or defender he was early in his career, but his bat is still well above average (122 wRC+), and for the Pirates to have success in 2018, they need his offensive production.
Chris Stewart played himself out of Pittsburgh with his bat, hitting just .183/.241/.221 with a .207 wOBA and 22 wRC+. This follows a 2016 in which he hit .214/.319/.286 with a .271 wOBA and 66 wRC+. He was injured in both seasons, and despite posting 3.7 framing runs and had 0.011 called strikes above average – ranking 18th and 15th respectively – his offensive struggles were too much for Stewart to be a viable backup.
Wade LeBlanc posted a 4.50 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 4.50 ERA, and 4.34 DRA. He only struck out 19.1 percent of hitters in his 68 innings, and he isn’t a ground ball pitcher either, career rate of just 36.7 percent (45.9 percent in 2017). He never really fit the Pirates mold, a soft tossing left hander who was best served only facing left-handed hitters or pitching in mop-up duty.
Neither of these moves are a surprise, and despite McCutchen’s option being picked up, there is still uncertainty on if he will be a member of the 2018 Pirates.