Andrew McCutchen’s return to Pittsburgh has thus far been a dream. While the Bucs’ hot start has normalized to a more modest 26-25 record, it still represents a clear step up from the rebuilding and losing baseball of the previous seven seasons, and McCutchen has been a big part of that resurgence. In addition to his expected clubhouse mentorship of the young Pirates team, McCutchen is also having a return to form on the field, hitting .269/.364/.462 with eight homers through his first 184 plate appearances.
After signing a one-year, $5M deal last winter, McCutchen will be a free agent again this offseason, but he made it clear to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he isn’t viewing 2023 as a farewell tour.
“Tom Brady said he would stop playing when he [stunk]. I don’t want to put it in the same context, but when my body tells me I’ve had enough, then I’ve had enough,” said McCutchen, who turns 37 in October. “My body is still saying, ‘Nah, you’re good. You’re fine.’ ”
Obviously quite a bit can still happen with over four months remaining in the season, but on the surface, McCutchen’s comeback year doesn’t look like a fluke. McCutchen’s BABIP is only .301, his wOBA/xwOBA are almost identical and most of his other Statcast numbers are above average, including a 43.8% hard-hit ball rate that ranks as his highest since 2015. The right-handed hitter is also posting roughly similar numbers against both lefties and righties after a dropoff against right-handed pitching contributed heavily to McCutchen’s borderline average numbers from 2020-22.
After playing with the Giants, Yankees, Phillies and Brewers from 2018-22, McCutchen has regained some stability in returning to Pittsburgh, and as a result he naturally wants to remain with the Pirates in the future.
“As long as things continue to be the way that they are, I’m going to continue to keep going,” McCutchen said. “I want to do it here. I don’t want to do it anywhere else. I don’t want to continue my career on another team… That ballpark gives me a different boost or jolt of energy that I didn’t really have. I don’t know if it’s familiarity or the comfortability of being in Pittsburgh once again. The surroundings, the vibe when you’re on the field, I didn’t have that anywhere else. It’s good to be able to feel all those things again.”
McCutchen and the Pirates have yet to discuss an extension, though as Mackey notes, a new contract “shouldn’t be much more than a formality” considering how openly McCutchen wants to stay put. From the Pirates’ viewpoint, it’s easy to imagine that the Bucs would want to retain a franchise icon who has continued to be such a productive player.