The 2016 Major League Baseball season has ended and the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to reach the postseason. The Pirates finished five games under .500 and 25 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.
With the season less than 24 hours over for the Pirates, talk has already started about next season and the possibility of the team shopping star outfielder Andrew McCutchen during the offseason.
The veteran from 2012 to 2015 enjoyed excellent stats with a .313 batting average, 141 doubles, 100 home runs and 76 stolen bases. During that period, he ended up in the top-5 in voting for the NL MVP 4 times, including winning the award in 2013. He won a Gold Glove along with 4 Silver Slugger awards.
However, during the just ended 2016 season McCutchen saw his stats take a dive. He ended the season with a batting average of .256, 24 home runs and 79 RBIs.
The numbers are not bad overall, but are far below those posted by McCutchen over the past four seasons prior to this year.
He also began to show some signs of decline in the field and on the bases, as he stole just 6 bases all season.
Now there is word that the team who drafted and signed the outfielder back in 2005 might look to trade him away.
Rumors are the team will look to deal McCutchen prior to him becoming a free agent in the next one or two years. Neal Huntington, the general manager is likely to shop the All-Star quietly during this upcoming offseason trying to gauge how much interest he might receive.
McCutchen has a guaranteed contract through the end of next season at $14 million per year that includes an option for $14.75 million and a buyout of $1 million for 2018.
Talk circulated of a possible extension last year, but the struggles McCutchen had during 2016 perhaps created second thoughts about something that at one time was a common goal for both parties.
Moving McCutchen would not be easy for Huntington. First, the outfielder is incredibly popular in Pittsburgh. He has not only put up huge numbers over the past, but is considered one of the game’s best ambassadors.
Moving him could be extremely divisive. He will only be 30 entering next season so it is not as if he is nearing steep decline, especially due to his commitment to his conditioning and his great athleticism.
If could be his struggles this past season were more due to nagging injuries and not premature decline.