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The struggles of Andrew McCutchen and his future with the Pittsburgh Pirates were two of the most talked about storylines following last season.
While this offseason may be similar in the sense that the team is coming off yet another losing season, we won’t necessarily be talking about a disappointing individual campaign for someone who many have considered the Pirates “franchise player” for several years.
In fact, along with the speculation surrounding his future in Pittsburgh, McCutchen’s rejuvenation and whether or not he can continue to play at a high level may be the most frequently talked about topic this offseason.
Despite the team’s second consecutive losing season following a 98-win 2015 season, McCutchen seemed to get better as the summer months approached. McCutchen overcame a rough opening two months of the season to hit .411 in June and .322 in July. He struggled again in August, but rebounded to finish strong in September.
Many would refer to McCutchen’s drop to the number six spot in the Pirates lineup as the turning point for the former National League Most Valuable Player. In 28 games hitting out of the six spot, McCutchen hit .380 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs.
The lessened amount of pressure allowed him to regroup, get back to his basics and become a more consistent threat back in the middle of the Pirates lineup.
McCutchen finished off the season by being recognized as the NL player of the week for the first time since 2015. During the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, McCutchen finished with eight RBIs and hit his first career grand slam, ending a long drought that spanned over 1,000 games and nearly 6,000 at-bats.
Overall, his numbers were stellar. The 30-year old saw jumps in just about every offensive category from last year and improved his discipline at the plate, dropping his strikeouts from 143 to 116 and walking more than he did a year ago.
Over the next few months, the organization will be faced with the tough task of determining whether or not McCutchen is part of their future plans. The Pirates hold a $14.75 million club option on the veteran center fielder for next season, but it also remains a possibility that they decide to trade him and get value for him when they can as its unlikely he will resign with the team once he hits the open market following the 2018 season.
While it is possible that McCutchen could be in a Pirates uniform in 2018, it isn’t a sure thing. However, regardless of if he returns or if he is dealt this offseason, McCutchen’s bounce back 2017 campaign was something many were eager to see. And if it was indeed his last in Pittsburgh, it may have served as the perfect send off.
Baseball Talk on the Web
- MLB season attendance dipped to under 73 million for the first time since 2000.
- Sports Illustrated takes a look at teams that fell short and exceeded expectations this season.
- Phil Barber believes champagne celebrations shouldn’t occur after each stop on the road to the World Series.
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