Posted on December 9, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
If you placed a bet prior to the Winter Meetings that Andrew McCutchen would be a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates when the meetings ended, congratulations! You probably won quite a lot of money. Just a few days ago, few could have predicted that McCutchen would actually remain a member of the Pirates over the course of the meetings. Yet, McCutchen is still a Pirate, and the team now appears content to keep him heading into next season, a drastic change of course from a week ago.
“Our intent coming in here was to have Andrew McCutchen be in our lineup going forward,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters on Thursday following the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. “No one changed that. It’s unlikely someone changes that going forward. We’re not going to close the door, but we’re not going to be making calls.”
Huntington admitted that he spoke to multiple teams about trading for McCutchen during the course of the meetings. “We took calls. We listened. We engaged,” Huntington explains. “And not just on Andrew but on other players who are on one- or two-year contracts. As we will always do, if we find the right move and we believe the right move is to move the player, we’ll move the player. If we believe the right move is to hold the player, then we’ll hold the player.”
Of course, that may not be the whole story. Less than a week ago, there were reports that the Pirates were actively shopping McCutchen by calling nearly every team in baseball to let them know he’s available. Pittsburgh even appeared to have found a match with the Washington Nationals. At one point, the Nationals and Pirates were reportedly in “accelerated talks,” making it sound inevitable that a deal would get done. But a trade for McCutchen was never completed.
The Nationals were simultaneously engaged in talks with the Chicago White Sox for Chris Sale, who was ultimately traded to the Red Sox in a blockbuster deal. When the Nationals didn’t get Sale, there were reports that they were turning their full attention back to McCutchen. However, Washington pivoted, working out a deal with the White Sox to acquire Adam Eaton. With the Nationals adding Eaton, the Pirates have lost nearly all hope of trading McCutchen, as Washington appeared to be the only team with serious interest in the former MVP, at least at the price Pittsburgh was asking for him.
Of course, the Pirates are now the team that has to pivot and act as if they were not actively looking to trade McCutchen. “In this instance, obviously, we felt the right move was to hold the player and have him continue to help us win a lot of games at the major league level,” Huntington said. “We expected Andrew to be a Pirate. We feel great about Andrew being a Pirate. He’s done remarkable things for this organization. We look forward to him being in our lineup next year and continuing on as a Pirate.”
Nevertheless, there’s still a chance McCutchen won’t be Pittsburgh’s center fielder on opening day, in part because manager Clint Hurdle may move him to left field, with Starling Marte taking over in center field. McCutchen was reportedly open to the idea when Hurdle mentioned it at the end of last season, although a position change does indicate that the Pirates don’t view McCutchen as they once did, perhaps implying that trading him was their preference.
Of course, the Pirates may continue to have discussions about McCutchen with other teams, but there appears to be little interest in him around baseball, especially with Pittsburgh putting such a high price tag on him. With the Nationals going in another direction to add a center fielder, and Huntington claiming that he won’t make any more phone calls actively shopping him, the Pirates now appear resigned to the fact that McCutchen will be back in 2017.