It’s not a big surprise, really.

ESPN reported yesterday that Andrew McCutchen is getting looks from other teams — obviously. 

The 30-year-old All-Star centerfielder has made a name for himself in his eight seasons in the ’Burgh, but with free agency approaching in the next year or two, the Pirates aren’t doing too much to keep McCutchen in the Buccos’ dugout — at least, not as much as this writer thinks they should. 

The game of baseball is a business though, and most fans understand that. And, if you didn’t understand that before the 2016 season, the trades that happened on the deadline were about enough for the Pirates to show their fan base that wins are important, but not as important as the dollar signs. 

Speaking of money, lets check out the paychecks. 

Before 2012, ’Cutch signed a six-year deal, with a $51.5 million contract extension. With his final year of that contract ending in 2018, he will make almost $14 million next season, which will be the final guarantee on his contract, according to ESPN. 

There are, of course, other options that Pittsburgh could take, such as the $14.75 million team option, along with a $1 million buyout for 2018. 

Sure, money is a big part of this business of which nearly half of the U.S. population considers itself a fan, but so is the team’s image. 

Hear me out — and don’t worry, I’ll get to the statistics. The Pirates need McCutchen. 

The 2016 season wasn’t the best representation of the slugger who currently has 637 RBI in his eight seasons, but patterns change. 

McCutchen’s batting average in 2016 was .256, his worst average since coming into the majors. 

Before this year, his lowest BA was .259, five years ago. 

But, after hitting that all-time low (in 2011), his bat picked back up. The following three seasons, his average was over .300, with his peak year at .327, in 2012. 

Averages aside, the man can still bomb a pitch, and has kept his homers right around par for the five-time All-Star. 

Last season, he blasted 24 HRs, which was up from his 2015 season (only by one) but still down from his career-best, which was 31, coincidently happening in 2012, his comeback season from a .259 BA.  

It’s very understandable, especially after the happy-to-sad season of 2016, that the Pirates front office is looking to the future, but don’t count out the backbone of Pittsburgh. 

Don’t count out “Mr. Clutch.” 

Through my various past columns, I’ve established my view of the Pirates as an optimistic one. And even though 2016 ended with a 78-83 season, I still find hope in “next year.” 

McCutchen bounced back from his 2011 slump to produce his career-best batting year, and followed that up with over-.300 batting averages in 2013 and 2014. 

Sure, he’s changed. But so has the batting order. 

I’m saying if he produces in 2017, keep him around, and let him do what he has continued to do for Pittsburgh. 

Looking at his past stats, he can do it. 

In that rebound year, ’Cutch produced career-best stats in runs (107), hits (194), homers (31), and RBI (96). 

Let history repeat itself, and curb these absurd rumors.

 

Lohr is the sports editor for The Herald. He can be reached by email, at sports@titusvilleherald.com.

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