Pirates Notes: Is Cutch Still a Catch?


MLB Trade Rumors predicts Andrew McCutchen will land a three-year, $45 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Along with past Cleveland outfielder, Michael Brantley, Cutch is thought to be cream of the free-agent, corner-outfield crop after Bryce Harper. What do you think?

To me, McCutchen was the best Pirates player since Barry Bonds. Let’s get that out of the way.

But he looked bad in left field for the post-season Yankees. He let an Andrew Benintendi pop-fly single down the left-field line plop down in front of him, allowing Mookie Betts go from first to third. The ball totally played Cutch, who waited for it to almost stop before picking it up. Benintendi advanced to second base on Cutch’s late throw to third.

At the plate, he didn’t show the bat speed that made him famous and he wasn’t pulling inside pitches. He might’ve had a strategy of taking everything opposite field, based on what the pitcher scouting reports said (and that’s not a bad thing with New York’s short right-field porch), but that plate aggressiveness just wasn’t there.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into things. Over the course of a long season, players find their levels. Plus, he never played in left field prior to his short stint with the Yankees. But a part of me wonders whether Cutch should simply ride off into the sunset at age 32 and raise the family he so loves.

Big market teams like the Cubs can afford to take on the risk of a three-year deal with a player in decline like Cutch. Heck, Yu Darvish is the team’s current $126 million noose; Alfonso Soriano ($136 million) was its old one. McCutchen has enjoyed plenty of success at Wrigley and wouldn’t be counted on to be The Man. His contract wouldn’t even come close to the albatross that is Jason Heyward ($184 million).

Maybe McCutchen has settled into a new norm. He’s averaged 24 homers with an .802 OPS over the last three seasons. That’s not so bad.



The rookie tandem of Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer was pure comedic genius in 2018, and not in a good way. Newman has the backing of ESPN’s Keith Law, who has ranked him high on his prospect list because of his batting average potential. That didn’t play in September (.209/.247/.231), but he batted .268 in his final 56 at-bats.

Newman looked bad, defensively, which didn’t jive with his hype. He had trouble making routine throws to first base. According to FanGraphs, he compiled a minus-17.1 UZR/150 and minus-1.1 Defensive WAR.

Because Newman showed little indication that he’s ready to take over full-time shortstop duties, the team will likely look outside the organization for a quick fix.

Kramer’s case is even more confounding. The infielder struck out 20 times in 40 plate appearances, going 5-for-37 with zero extra-base hits. This from a player who slashed .311/.365/.492 with 15 homers and 13 steals at Triple-A.

Twenty strikeouts in 40 plate appearances! That’s hard to do. Former Bucco second baseman, Dave Cash, made 766 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1975. At a similar strikeout rate, Cash would’ve K’d 383 times!

Okay, back to reality.

The Pirates pigeonholed themselves at shortstop, taking Cole Tucker and Newman with first-round picks in back-to-back drafts.

At least one of these two players needs to pan out. Tucker is participating in the Arizona Fall League. He stroked a double in the Fall Stars Game on Saturday. He’s so lanky, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for him to mature into his body. It’s highly unlikely that transformation will take place in 2019 at PNC Park.

Newman and Kramer gained valuable experience coming up in September. Remember, Mike Trout hit .220 with a .672 OPS in 135 plate appearances as a rookie. They will both get better.

In the meantime, the Pirates will look to Jose Iglesias, Jordy Mercer or another bridge (yes, I just used that term) to Newman and/or Tucker.



Congratulations to Corey Dickerson, 2018 National League Gold Glove Award winner in left field. Not only did the Pirates swing a trade for Dickerson after Tampa Bay designated him for assignment, but the team also moved the disappointing Daniel Hudson in the deal.


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