In 2013, Andrew McCutchen was the NL MVP. He hit .317 with 25 homers, 96 RBIs, 11 steals and 91 runs and cemented his status as one of the top players in baseball.
This season, however, McCutchen’s elite status is in serious doubt.
“Andrew McCutchen, as crazy as it might sound, might be the third-best outfielder on the Pittsburgh Pirates,” CBS Sports MLB writer Jonah Keri said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m not saying that to be cute or cheeky. Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are terrific all-around young players who are really, really good. And at least on this season’s numbers – and you can even argue over the last couple seasons – have started to catch, and maybe even in some ways surpass, McCutchen.”
McCutchen, a five-time All-Star, had an OBP of .400 or better in four consecutive seasons from 2012-15. This year, his OBP is .317. That’s a career-low. He’s also hitting a career-low .243.
Not exactly a great age-29 season.
“I’m not saying that McCutchen is old,” Keri said. “It’s just that he hasn’t put up the monster numbers, and he’s going to come up on free agency in a couple of years. The way baseball works, much like pretty much any other sport, is that you really do have to think about age when it comes to players. I know McCutchen is a good player now, he will be next year and he will be the year after that. But there will come a point when he won’t, and if you think about some of the best decisions – just kind of cold-hearted but correct decisions – that have been made in the industry, the Cardinals not resigning somebody like Albert Pujols (was smart). You put sentiment aside, and you say, listen, I love Cutch. I think he’s great for the game. The African-American community is under-represented in baseball, so I think there’s something to be said for that. Just a great talent, a great guy, everybody loves him. But he’ll be in his 30s when his contract ends.”
McCutchen, who turns 30 in October, has just two steals in 74 games this season – this after recording career-lows in that department each of the last two seasons with 18 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. That’s a far cry from the 25 he averaged over the first five years of his career.
“Do you want to give a guy who’s probably on the downside of his career an eight-year, $200-million contract or something like that?” Keri asked. “Not to say that McCutchen doesn’t deserve to be paid for what he’s done. He does. But it’s looking like the Pirates, (who don’t) have a ton of money, (would be better served) building around Marte and Polanco – in which case, yes, it could potentially facilitate a trade. I just don’t think it’ll be now.”
Marte, 27, leads the Pirates with a .325 average and has six homers, 30 RBIs, 20 steals and 40 runs scored. The 24-year-old Polanco, meanwhile, is hitting .300 and leads the team in RBIs (44) and OBP (.380).
As talented as those two players are, do the Pirates need to break the bank for McCutchen? Probably not.
“I think if they were to trade McCutchen, it would be either at the end of this season or maybe next season,” Keri said. “It would be the right move, I think, to try to trade him as soon as possible to get a whole bunch of bounty. I’m just not sure they’re going to do it.”