Pittsburgh Pirates: Moves The Team Could Make Within Their Budget to Improve

These moves would be massive upgrades to the Pirates roster, and should be well within their budget.
Aug 21, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen
Aug 21, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Sign Andrew McCutchen

Estimated 2024 Salary: $5 million

The Pirates brought back Andrew McCutchen last off-season to rejoin a young squad. They should do this again this off-season. McCutchen is loved by fans and the young players alike. Bringing him back for another year wouldn't just be fanservice, either. He's still a productive Major League hitter, as well.

Cutch produced a .256/.378/.397 triple-slash, .345 wOBA, and 115 wRC+ through 473 plate appearances last year. His .378 on-base percentage was one of the highest remarks of his career. It was his highest OBP since 2015 in a season where he had at least 300 plate appearances. His 15.9% walk rate was also a career-best.

Despite entering his mid-late-30s, McCutchen's raw power is still there. He had an 89.6 MPH exit velocity (57th percentile) and a 44.6% hard-hit rate (70th percentile). That's the same hard-hit rate he had in 2015 when he finished 5th in National League MVP voting. But his 12.3-degree launch angle was a career-low and partially caused by an elbow injury he played through.

I think many are frustrated that a deal hasn't gotten done yet. It seems like talks between Cutch and the Pirates are moving in the right direction, and Jason Mackey reported that a deal could get done as early as next week. But why has it taken so long? This seems like a deal that should have gotten done the moment free agency opened up. 

So why haven't the Pirates signed Cutch yet? He seemed like their first off-season addition. Even though McCutchen is loved, I understand the Pirates' are cautious about going after McCutchen. He's 37 and just suffered his second major leg injury in the last five years. He tore his left ACL in 2019.

On top of that, he played through an elbow injury this year that severely diminished his power. At the end of June, Cutch had a .455 slugging percentage and .168 ISO. From that point forward, he slugged just .301 with a .095 ISO and missed a week after falling hard on his right elbow. Meanwhile, his launch angle went from 13.1 degrees to 10.9 degrees.

If the Pirates re-sign Andrew McCutchen, I don't see it being more or less than what he signed for in 2023. Last year, he signed a one-year contract at $5 million. Assuming he's healthy and is willing to sign that again, which I don't see why not, then that would bring the total spent thus far up to $10 million on the dot. The Pirates will hopefully get something done soon. The outlook on a McCutchen reunion looks optimistic, as Jason Mackey reported that the two sides could come to an agreement as early as this week.