By Jared Lankes
The Pirates drafted Andrew McCutchen what feels like a short 12 years ago, and since that moment, he has known nothing but playing in the Pirates organization his entire professional baseball life. Conversely, Pittsburgh Pirates fans over the years haven’t known a Pirates team that didn’t feature Andrew McCutchen.
The star center fielder has been the icon, the figure, the face of the Pirates. When you think about the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen is the guy that pops into your head almost immediately. It seems like, no matter what, he will be associated with Pittsburgh and vice versa.
However, baseball has to be a business at times and teams must transition their roster every so often in order to remain competitive and phase out the older players in exchange for the next wave of potential stars. This has lead to trade rumors swirling around him. This has become a sad reality, a cloud over the head of the superstar that helped bring winning back to the Pirates.
As we all know, the Pirates nearly traded McCutchen in the offseason before a deal reportedly fell through with the Nationals. For better or for worse, it happened. McCutchen started off 2017 even worse than 2016 as he fell to the Mendoza line (.200 batting average) and wasn’t producing for the better part of April and May. Since, however, he’s been possibly the hottest hitter in baseball and his stats look wonderful now. This, coupled with the fact the Pirates may sell a bit at the trading deadline depending on where they stand as well as a looming Austin Meadows, has lead to the inevitability that a McCutchen trade may happen within a month when MLB teams do their bi-annual swapping marathon (The Winter Meetings being the other one).
Many fans are clinging on the hopes that he isn’t traded and can remain a Pirate for life, an optimistic look but not one that dawns itself in this current reality. McCutchen, like so many others, just don’t stand a chance to stay with one team their entire careers. The same will seem to hold true for McCutchen, unfortunately. He will either be traded this July, in the offseason, next July, or walk as a free agent. Either way, his time with the Pirates will be reaching a conclusion much sooner than we think.
So, Pirates fans: I think we should enjoy potentially the very last month we have with McCutchen as a Pirate because his last game could be almost every game in July, so enjoy every one like it’s his last. Pirates fans will look back fondly on McCutchen no doubt as he has been one of the very special ones in Pirates history, and we can’t forget that. We truly got to witness a great player form right before our very eyes, and it was remarkable.
When the inevitable moment of McCutchen’s departure occurs, it is okay to cry (I know I will) because McCutchen left us all with lasting memories that will not be forgotten. He was a true great on and off the field, and we can’t thank him enough for what he brought to the Pirates.
But as the curtain begins to close on Andrew McCutchen’s Pirates career, it’s important to know that each end is a new beginning. A new beginning for McCutchen to play elsewhere, meet new people, and have a new city hopefully embrace him. And a new beginning for the Pirates who will look to continue to field greats that we will never, ever forget.