Pirate fans were hit with sobering reality this past week: Andrew McCutchen is not going to be a lifer.
His tenure almost ended Thursday, December 1st. He is one of the hottest commodities at the Winter Meetings, with the Nationals, Rangers, and Dodgers all strongly interested. These might be his last days as a Pirate.
Maybe he gets dealt at the deadline. Or maybe he leaves a free agent after 2018. My money’s on this being his last week. Either way, cold hard reality has come crashing down. Odds are he’s already played his last game.
The Pirates’ first glimmer of hope to get out of an unparalleled losing streak came the day he was drafted in 2005. Through managerial and front office changes, he was that glimmer. That little flicker shined brighter on June 4th, 2009, the day he was promoted. With every gap shot and Sports Center catch, that glimmer grew and grew, until the Pirates became a playoff team. And then they did it again. And again.
Bonds may have been better than McCutchen, but number 22 was the heart and soul of the Pirates from the day he was introduced at PNC Park. The last Bucco who meant this much to the city was Pops.
Yeah, it’s going to suck seeing him in a different uniform.
When someone loses a loved one, they go through the five stages of grief. Today, I’m here to help you identify what stage you are on by examining what you might be saying or feeling.
We’re all in this together. Let’s try to heal a little.
“They didn’t do it. They can’t trade Cutch.”
Everyone will have the same reaction when they hear that Cutch is gone: denial. Maybe it’s a fake Ken Rosenthal account. There are dozens of those. Maybe the ESPN social media coordinator jumped the gun. Why is everyone tweeting about this?
How many times have yinzers proposed firing Tomlin or trading either Crosby or Malkin? Nobody means it. Could you imagine the riots in the streets if Malkin was shipped out of town? Sometimes fans say stupid things.
Remember when people said that McCutchen should have been traded at the deadline? They’re regretting it now. But it doesn’t matter. They couldn’t actually trade him. Could they?
“This is all Bob Nutting’s fault! He’s going to spend the money on new ski lifts!”
Oh boy. Go on Twitter or listen to a sports talk show. A lot of Pittsburghers are in the anger phase.
It’s hard to blame them for being frustrated. Big market clubs like the Yankees and Red Sox can keep their stars for as long as they want. Small market clubs usually can’t. Sure, every once in awhile a team like the Twins will give a giga-contract to a guy like Mauer, but that rarely works out well for the team.
Trading McCutchen is the safe bet. If he has another bad year, he does not have any trade value in 2017. He might not even have the option picked up. But the heart can get in the way of the head.
(Also, just to add a little gasoline to the dumpster fire, I have never heard a good argument on why Mr. Nutting would cheap out on the Pirates just to invest an inordinate amount on Seven Springs. Why wouldn’t he just cheap out on both businesses and maximize profits?)
“I’ll only make the trade if we’re getting a steal. A number two starter and a couple great prospects.”
Let’s be honest: every fan has a price of what they’d need to trade McCutchen. It might be a ridiculous haul like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, or it could be as simple as two or three top prospects.
The Pirates’ greatest need right now is starting pitching. The door is still open for an Ivan Nova reunion, but the best way to bolster the rotation in this market is through a trade. They could do that by either shipping out top prospects like Meadows or Bell, or they can trade McCutchen.
The most talked about proposed trade package with the Nationals seems to revolve around Victor Robles and Reynaldo Lopez. Robles needs time to develop, but Lopez is in the same mold as players like Taillon and Kuhl. He’s young, has promise and can improve the major league rotation on Opening Day. A rotation of Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Lopez and Kuhl could be dominant for years to come.
“I’m going to miss Cutch.”
I know I’ve been playing devil’s advocate on why trading McCutchen might be in the club’s best interest. That doesn’t mean I’m rooting for a trade. Huntington probably doesn’t want to make this trade unless he has to.
It’s OK to get sad.
Cutch isn’t getting a statue. If he had played 40 years earlier, he could have been a lifer and had his number retired.
So to help cheer you up, here’s a video of kittens and baby rabbits playing together.
“Cutch was great. I’m glad I got to watch him play.”
Maybe acceptance comes when Meadows reaches the majors. Maybe it’s when one of the guys he was traded for single-handedly steals a game. Maybe it’s when McCutchen comes back as a visitor and he gets his video tribute and standing ovation.
Pittsburgh sports fans will move on. It won’t happen overnight, but someday.
For years Pirates baseball was a joke. McCutchen is a big reason why it changed. If this is the end, just remember how lucky we all were to watch a potential Hall of Famer for eight years.