Andrew McCutchen, a franchise legend, is returning to the Pirates
Published in Baseball
PITTSBURGH -- Neil Walker was visiting family in Colorado on Friday morning when his phone began buzzing with news and excitement. As the Rocky Mountains provided a picturesque backdrop, Walker glanced down and saw what he sort of suspected had come true — Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' franchise pillar for this generation of baseball fans, was returning.
The contract, which sources told the Post-Gazette will be worth $5 million once it's finalized, will bring McCutchen, 36, back to Pittsburgh, the city where it all started for a welcomed homecoming, a move that also tracks from a baseball perspective.
"It makes all the sense in the world," Walker said. "He's going to help some of these young guys out a lot when it comes to being professionals and playing winning baseball. He's a valuable asset as a [designated hitter] and outfielder or however they would want to use him. I can't say I'm surprised. I think he's gonna be able to handle whatever they throw at him."
The free-agent signing — one of a larger-than-expected number for the Pirates this offseason — reunites a city and baseball team with a generational talent, the player most often linked to their three consecutive playoff teams from 2013-15. And obviously a fan favorite, as it took no time for Pirates fans to gush over the move.
Nobody has worn No. 22 since he starred here and likely nobody will again. Once McCutchen retires, he can be warmly welcomed as a Pirates alum and forever linked with Pittsburgh's baseball franchise. Also important: The right-handed-hitting outfielder can still play.
"I'm really excited because I think Cutch has a lot more in the tank, especially offensively," said Michael McKenry, another former Pirate still attached to the team. "He's made for a veteran role."
In 134 games with the Brewers this past season, McCutchen hit .237 with 17 home runs, 69 RBIs and 66 runs scored, producing an OPS of .700. McKenry, who works as an analyst on AT&T SportsNet and 93.7 FM The Fan, has watched too many McCutchen at-bats to count and thinks hitting coach Andy Haines could tweak the right-handed hitter's setup and have him more upright to start.
"That's when we'll see some thunder back," McKenry said of McCutchen, who hit 27 home runs with the Phillies in 2021 and is known for his patience and discipline at the plate. "His hands are still lightning quick. His approach is still really, really good."
The 2022 season wasn't prime-McCutchen stuff, but it'll certainly fit on a club looking to shake back-to-back 100-loss seasons, one that could use an infusion of positivity and also has a bunch of kids it's trying to grow into winners.
Nobody in recent Pirates history knows more about that sort of stuff than McCutchen, who starred for the Pirates for nine years between 2009-2017 and was the biggest star on their three consecutive playoff teams, winning the National League MVP award in 2013.
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