The Pittsburgh Pirates star is remaining in his adopted hometown after agreeing to a one-year contract worth $5 million, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because it was not yet finalized.
The 37-year-old McCutchen returned to the Pirates last winter, reuniting with the club he starred from 2009-17, making five All-Star teams and winning the 2013 NL Most Valuable Player award. His arrival gave the rebuilding franchise a needed jolt even as McCutchen promised it wasn’t a farewell tour.
It was not. McCutchen hit .256 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs in 112 games while serving primarily as a designated hitter. He got his 2,000th hit in June and was sitting on 299 home runs in September when he partially tore his left Achilles tendon while legging out a double against Milwaukee.
McCutchen made it clear he intended to play in 2024 shortly after getting hurt, saying ”it’s not going to feel right anywhere else.”
Pirates general manager Ben Cherington agreed.
”(His approach) has helped our lineup,” Cherington said in September. ”It’s helped us and I don’t see any particular reason why that can’t continue.”
McCutchen’s days in the outfield are likely over. He played in right field for a handful of games early in 2023 before exclusively moving to the designated hitter spot.
The Pirates benefited on the field and at the gate with McCutchen’s familiar No. 22 back in the fold during a season in which they went 76-86, a 15-game improvement over 2021. Pittsburgh averaged 20,131 fans at PNC Park last season, more than 4,500 more than the club averaged in 2022.
”Every time he came up to the plate it was kind of a different sound than (when) some other guys come up to the plate,” Cherington said in September. ”So I think in that sense it’s obvious to all of us that it means something and hopefully there’s a lot more good moments out there with him.”
The Pirates believe they are nearing the end of the franchise-wide overhaul Cherington began when he took over four years ago. Pittsburgh has used the offseason to add several established players in recent days, bringing in veteran left-handed starting pitchers Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales and signing first baseman Rowdy Tellez.
”They’re just a couple pieces away,” Tellez said Monday. ”I just want to be over there and help out in any way I can and just be a veteran guy that they can look to and talk to and be around and help them win as many games as I can.”
Tellez and company will join a group that includes Gold Glove third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, outfielder Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Oneil Cruz, who missed almost all of last season with a left leg injury. The top overall pick in the 2023 draft, pitcher Paul Skenes could also get a long look during spring training and could be in the majors sooner rather than later.
McCutchen, the guiding force of Pittsburgh’s run to three straight playoff berths from 2013-15, knows better than any active player what it takes to win in a Pirates uniform. When he came back a year ago he stressed it wasn’t out of sentiment but something more basic.
”I want to win,” he said in January. “Specifically, I want to win here. ”
McCutchen will get another chance when his 16th season begins in the same place as his first.