Earlier in the offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates were willing to trade both Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. Although Spring Training is quickly approaching, both players could still be had for the right price.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates put Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison on the block this offseason, it made sense. Free agency was not exactly loaded with many stellar options, leaving the possibility that either player could bring back a windfall of prospects. Yet, neither Harrison nor McCutchen were traded, leaving the expectation that both would be on the Opening Day roster.
That may not be the case. Pirates general manager Neil Huntington is still open to dealing either player, and could even trade both if the right offers come in. This would be a change from Huntington’s stance after the Winter Meetings, when he stated the McCutchen would likely remain in Pittsburgh.
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In a lot of ways, trading either player right now would not make a lot of sense for the Pirates. McCutchen had the worst season of his career in 2016, limiting the potential return that PIttsburgh could expect. He is, however, still just 30 years old, and has a very affordable two years and $28.5 Million left on his contract. Harrison has up to four years and $39.5 Million left on his contract, which is still fairly affordable for the Pirates. However, since his All Star campaign in 2014, Harrison has not been close to the same player, again making the likely return less than optimal.
And yet, the Pirates have reasons to trade both McCutchen and Harrison. Top prospect Austin Meadows is waiting in the wings and may be close to Major League ready. Harrison, meanwhile, is blocking consistent at bats for Adam Frazier. In a limited sample size of 160 plate appearances, Frazier showed some promise, producing a .301/.356/.411 batting line, with 11 extra base hits and four steals.
Likewise, with their crop of young talent reaching the Majors, it may be in the Pirates best interest to start considering long term extensions for some of these players. Moving McCutchen and Harrison, even though they are on reasonable contracts, could free up the money to lock in three or four players to create the future core.
As the Pirates have their eyes on contending in 2017, trading away either McCutchen or Harrison, or possibly both, would seem like a step in the wrong direction. Yet, that may not be the case. Harrison has not exactly lived up to his extension, and McCutchen may be at a crossroad in his career.