The Pittsburgh Pirates Handled McCutchen's Trade Talks All Wrong
Editorial: All of Pittsburgh Pirates Nation watched with bated breath as the Pirates and Nationals teetered on the edge of making a deal for Buccos superstar Andrew McCutchen to head to the nation’s capital. The deal never came to fruition, so now the important question is: What will the aftermath look like?
Now that it looks like Andrew McCutchen will most likely be back in the black and gold next season, let’s just say it: The Cutch trade debacle was a disaster for the Pittsburgh Pirates. When news broke that White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton had been acquired by the Nationals, Pirates’ fans seemed okay with it at first. We would keep Cutch, and everything would carry on as it should.
And then, if you listened closely, you could hear an entire city’s heads explode at once as news rolled in detailing the package Chicago got in return for Eaton. The White Sox would be adding pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. Giolito is highly regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball, ranked fourth by Baseball America. Lopez is generally regarded as a top-40 prospect as well.
Adam Eaton is a great ballplayer. But let’s not pretend like the White Sox didn’t make out like stagecoach bandits in this trade.
This begs the question: What in the name of Sam Hill did the Pirates want from Washington? Bryce Harper? Stephen Strasburg? Barack Obama? The Lincoln Memorial? If that is what the Nationals were willing to give up for Eaton, I can’t imagine the offer for McCutchen was one to turn your nose up at.
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Naturally, Pirates fans were angry. But Pirates fans would accuse Bob Nutting of curing cancer just to buy nicer ski lifts for Seven Springs. However, I can’t help but be mad at the Pirates too. I’m not upset because they failed to deal Cutch. Personally, I’d like to see him stick around and try to regain his form. I’m upset about how they tried to deal Cutch.
Can you imagine waking up one day and seeing that the employer you’ve given your all to is trying to pawn you off on another business? What if I woke up tomorrow and saw on my Twitter feed that Rum Bunter was trying to trade me to DKPittsburghSports.com? That would be pretty unsettling to me, and it doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the player.
Obviously, the team’s front office couldn’t just come out and say that they weren’t trading Cutch, because they didn’t know if they were at the time. But holy moly, it seemed like Neal Huntington just really wanted to stoke the flames with his comments to get the team in the newspaper headlines some more before PirateFest kicked in.
“As we do with every player that is on an expiring contract, or that is on a near-expiring contract, we’ll listen,” Huntington said. “If it makes sense as it did with (Mark) Melancon, as hard as some of those moves can be, as we did with (Neil) Walker a year ago … If there is a discussion to be had we’ll have it. … It’s not just Andrew McCutchen.”
Here is the thing that Huntington is missing: Andrew McCutchen is not like other players. Andrew McCutchen is not Neil Walker. Neil Walker didn’t take an ailing baseball city from the outhouse to the penthouse, reviving a love for the game that had been dormant for decades. Andrew McCutchen is not Mark Melancon. Mark Melancon didn’t win an MVP, and force an entire city of yinzers to fall in love.
Here is the worst part.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you none of this bothered me,” McCutchen said about the trade talks at PirateFest. “Of course it did. I’m human.”
And then, the dagger. When Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asked Cutch if he could still finish his career with the Pirates, he said, “I don’t know if that can happen.”
I think Cutch still has it in him to be a very productive member of the Buccos going forward. Is he an MVP candidate? No, probably not, but he can still be pretty darn good, and the Pirates could use all the help they can get.
What the Pirates don’t need, however, is an aging superstar who feels as though the team he loves has abandoned him. McCutchen has a tough road ahead of him. He will need to crawl his way back to prominence, and support from the team and from the fans would be a tremendous boost to his morale.
But how are the fans going to react when they see the Pirates’ handling of McCutchen’s failed trade? The team seems to have lost faith, so why should fringe fans come to the games and cheer him on? Why should they attend the games at all?
The team’s front office has really set off down a very slippery slope here, and they have to be careful. They need to show Cutch, and the fans, that they have learned from trying to trade him and are ready to move forward with him at the forefront.
If they have to erect a statue in his honor in front of PNC Park, or change Seven Springs Mountain Resort’s name to Cutch’s Skiing Emporium, then so be it. But we need our superstar, and turning our back on him in his toughest times isn’t going to get us anywhere.
What do you think of the Cutch trade saga? Are you happy to see him stay, or do you wish the Pirates had shown him the door? Does Bob Nutting still have the first dollar he ever made? Let me know in the comments below!