Pittsburgh Pirates: Constructing a Potentially Perfect Off-Season

What would a perfect Pirates 2023-2024 off-season look like?

Sep 2, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen (22)
Sep 2, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen (22) / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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Andrew McCutchen

Yeah, this one is pretty obvious. It’s so obvious, I didn’t include it in my Pirates’ off-season wishlist. But if we are talking about what would make the most perfect Pirate off-season, I don’t think you can exclude Andrew McCutchen from said list. Signing McCutchen is a must, assuming he is healthy and does not retire.

In McCutchen’s return to Pittsburgh, he batted a solid .256/.378/.397 with a dozen home runs. Even though McCutchen is in his age-36 season and his 15th big league campaign, the former MVP posted a career-best 15.9% walk rate (he had a higher walk rate in the shortened 2020 season, though in less than 300 plate appearances). His 21.1% strikeout rate was also the best he posted since 2017. His overall .345 wOBA, and 115 wRC+ made it his best full season since 2018.

McCutchen also played through an elbow injury that occurred in Spring Training but became an issue in early July after he was hit by a pitch and landed on his right arm. McCutchen hit the IL, and the numbers showed it really sapped his power. McCutchen had hit ten home runs and had a .157 isolated slugging percentage up until this injury, but after said injury, he had just two dingers and an ISO of .109. He may not have been the power threat he was early in his career, but an ISO around .160 is about league average.

McCutchen’s season was cut short after a partially torn left Achilles, and while it may only take this off-season to heal, there is a reason for concern. This is the same leg that McCutchen tore his ACL just a few years ago with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. While he also rebounded from that, it marks the second major injury to his left leg over the last five years. McCutchen will turn 37 next week, so there is a reasonable concern as to how much he has left in the tank.

Still, I don’t see McCutchen going anywhere else but retirement at this stage of his career. McCutchen is very close to reaching a handful of career milestones. He is one home run away from 300, 52 hits away from 2100, +1.4 bWAR away from +50, and 27 runs scored away from 1200. Cutch signed for one-year/$5 million last off-season. I could very well see him signing an identical contract.