Here’s a series of articles that TPOP has written about Andrew McCutchen, from last September to this July:
- A New Normal Needs Established For McCutchen In 2017
- What Type Of Return Should We Expect From Andrew McCutchen Trade?
- No Guarantee Of An Andrew McCutchen Turnaround in 2017
- A Case For Optimism Regarding Andrew McCutchen (one of Alex’s article from Fangraphs)
- The Revival Of Andrew McCutchen
That would be quite a character arc for a Hollywood movie about a baseball player, but that actually has transpired with Andrew McCutchen over the past 11 months.
After reaching the nadir of his entire Pirate career in Atlanta on May 24th, when he finished the game with a triple slash line of .203/.274/.360, McCutchen turned into a blazing ball of fury on May 26th after he got dropped to 6th in the batting order against the Mets. Since that day, McCutchen has batted .349/.452/.630 and returned to his customary 3rd spot in the batting order without slowing down.
He put together a mind-melting June line of .411/.505/.689 (1194 OPS, 212 wRC+) and followed that up with a holy-cow-are-you-still-serious July of .322/.434/.667 (1101 OPS, 180 wRC+), capped off by his 3 homer day against the Padres in San Diego on July 31st. While his August has been a little more pedestrian to date, June and July have totally salvaged his overall season line to its current .289/.381/.518.
If that line were to hold in place, it would be extremely close to his 2015 season line of .292/.401/.488 (146 wRC+) that saw him finish in 5th place in the NL MVP race (and check out Gerrit Cole in 19th). Narratives mean quite a bit in MVP voting, for good or for bad, so unless the Pirates can semi-miraculously get into the playoffs, he doesn’t have much of a chance of replicating that 5th place finish this year. There is also a deeper field of MVP candidates to draw upon this year, as well.
In no particular order, Anthony Rendon (WAS), Bryce Harper (WAS), and Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) would probably finish 1-2-3, in some order, if the season ended today. Corey Seager and Justin Turner, of the juggernaut Dodgers, will get plenty of votes for being on the far and away best team in baseball. Rookie teammate Cody Bellinger will grab a few down-ballot votes, too. Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies will both get votes, not only for their great individual seasons (also Arenado’s defense!), but also for the team narrative of the Rockies making the playoffs when few thought it was possible this year. Max Scherzer (WAS) will probably sneak in the back half of the top 10, too.
But Andrew McCutchen, from an offensive stats point, will be right there with most of them. The Pirates season has been buoyed by great run of form in the past 2-1/2 months, so there’s a little narrative in play here, too.
I can easily see him finishing somewhere in the 8th to 14th range once all the votes are tallied. Considering where he was on May 26th, that’s an amazing achievement. Water tends to find its true level over the course of a grueling 162 game season, so this is what he was meant to be. But it’s hard to not daydream about what his season could have been (and the Pirates, for that matter) if he had even just league-average lines in April and especially May. Perhaps, though, his bottoming out in Atlanta is what fueled this Fukushima-hot run that he’s on now. Maybe proving all the doubters, myself included, is what has propelled him back to his current state.
However you parse it, this summer run by Andrew McCutchen has me convinced that the Pirates need to not only pick up his 2018 option, but also to go into 2018 with him on the roster for one final run at the playoffs with him. I’m all for asset management and trying to turn McCutchen into a player that may help the Pirates down the line, but if you are clear-eyed and realistic, there’s no future player the Pirates will get in return for one year of McCutchen that will come close to replicating what McCutchen himself can provide to the Pirates in 2018. He’s worth more to the Pirates than what he could garner on the trade market.
The bones of a 2018 playoff team exist. For once, Neal Huntington needs to not try and wring every drop of value out of an asset and be willing to let Andrew McCutchen walk away at the end of 2018 for just a compensatory pick (unless the Pirates are out of it at the 2018 July trade deadline). McCutchen has spent the past 12 years of his life in the Pirates’ organization. He deserves one more year to display his talents and the fans deserve one more year to enjoy them.