Pittsburgh Pirates: What Happens With Andrew McCutchen Can Impact the Entire Offseason

What happens with Cutch will be a bit of a lynchpin for the offseason

Sep 4, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen
Sep 4, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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What happens with Andrew McCutchen will have an impact on other offseason moves that the Pittsburgh Pirates do or do not need to make

As Ben Cherington starts to project the offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates there are many decisions that need to be made. One decision, that could be made quickly, involves what is going to happen between the team and Andrew McCutchen.

McCutchen has not hidden his desires. The Pirate great wants to keep playing, and he wants it to be in Pittsburgh. Last season, Cutch showed that he can still do it at the plate. In his age-36 season, he hit for a .256/.378/.397 slash line with a 113 OPS+ and 115 wRC+. This was his best offensive season since 2019.

With this offensive output, McCutchen was also one of the best hitters on the Pirates in 2023. Factor in his clubhouse leadership and how valuable he can be to the plethora of young players on the roster, and there are plenty of reasons why bringing McCutchen back makes sense.

All of that said, what happens with McCutchen could have a big impact on the Pirate offseason.

If McCutchen returns it's pretty cut and dry. He likely serves as the team's primary designated hitter in 2024 with Henry Davis in right field, or perhaps we see McCutchen in right field with Davis as the DH. Remember, the original plan last season was for McCutchen to play a lot more right field than he wound up doing due to an elbow issue.

Now, if McCutchen does not return, that then creates another hole in the lineup that needs filled.

If the Pirates would not re-sign McCutchen the first decision that needs to be made is what will they do with Davis? Does the former no. 1 overall pick continue to play right field, or does he become the team's DH?

Let's say the Pirates decide to move Davis to DH in this scenario, then they enter the market for an outfielder. They could add a corner outfielder such as Hunter Renfroe or Adam Duvall to play right field, or they could look to add a center fielder such as Kevin Kiermaier or Harrison Bader while sliding Jack Suwinski to right field.

Even if Davis were to remain in right field, the Pirates would still need to add another bat due to now having a need at DH. Free agents such as ex-Pirate Daniel Vogelbach, Rowdy Tellez (who could also be a target for first base), or a trade target could all become potential fits then.

Again, this is a question that could be answered quickly. If both the Pirates and McCutchen are interested in remaining together for the 2024 season, then one would assume that a contract is worked out pretty quickly.

If a new contract to bring Cutch back for 2024 is not worked out, then the Pirates need to pivot to figuring out who they would to fill the void that is then created. In many ways, what happens between the Pirates and McCutchen will be a bit of a lynchpin for the team's offseason.

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