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Insider Only Analysis: Pirates failed to foreshadow where the Andrew McCutchen trade market was headed

SFG Receive: Andrew McCutchen, $2.5 million in cash considerations
PIT Receive: RHP Kyle Crick, minor league OF Bryan Reynolds, $500,000 International Bonus Pool


The Pittsburgh Pirates either had to go all-in this off-season and stretch the payroll, which was never going happen with Bob Nutting as the owner, or start the process of a re-tool.

With the way Bob Nutting operates, an Andrew McCutchen trade was always going to happen at some point, but with an iconic player like McCutchen it still doesn’t make it any easier for the fan base to accept.

“The reality is, he had one year left in Pittsburgh under the best of circumstances,” GM Neal Huntington said of McCutchen. “As a result, with where we are in the win curve, the Gerrit Cole trade did not dramatically impact our potential to win the World Series this year. This trade does not dramatically impact our potential to win the World Series this year. We talked a lot about giving this team a chance. And then we realized, we were one year out, we were two years away from being where we need to be, and that’s a postseason-caliber team. “2017 going into 2018, it would have been a challenge for us to sit here and say, we’re going to be better than we were the last two years,” Huntington said. “The last two years wasn’t good enough, so we made these hard decisions to not punt many years down the road but to put ourselves in a position to get back there as quickly as possible.”


Huntington is not calling this rebuild and you can argue that is accurate.

“In our minds, a rebuild implies you’re looking five years down the road,” Huntington said. “This team is going to show up ready to go in spring training, ready to compete, ready to defy odds, just like that 2013 Pirates team did. This is a young, talented team here that is going to be fun to watch, and they’re going to go out and fight, every single night, to honor these fans and to respect and appreciate the anger that they feel right now and turn that anger into sold-out, loud, playoff PNC Park.”

The Pirates returns for McCutchen, Cole are not disasters, they’ve added multiple pieces with years of control who can fill complementary roles, but teams that operate the way the Pirates do are often banking down the road of turning a first overall pick (Gerrit Cole) and a former MVP (Andrew McCutchen) into significant returns and that didn’t play out here.

That’s where the most frustrating part has to be in how this franchise has so many misses over the last couple years.

When the window was still there, they let a 98 win team crumble by failing to properly build on it and for a club that is so cautious about spending money, the last couple years have been met with dishing out bad contracts to the likes of Francisco Cervelli, Gregory Polanco, amongst others.

Huntington admitted yesterday when a player is one year away from free agency, the “return is less”.

There was never an intention to sign Andrew McCutchen long-term and since the start of the 2016 season the Pirates have always been bracing to trade McCutchen.

When the organization’s philosophy is to always put themselves in position to win in the future, there was a failure in not pulling the trigger on a McCutchen trade last winter when even coming off a bad season, McCutchen still had the trade value of having two years of control where significant Major League players like SP Gio Gonzalez were offered for McCutchen at one point.

Hence, a year later you end up with a brutal trade market for outfielders the Pirates were met with and the return the Pirates got didn’t surprise anyone inside the game.

For a front office that is always looking ahead, Huntington and his staff failed miserably in properly looking ahead of what the McCutchen trade market was going to be.

As frustrating as it might be that Bob Nutting won’t spend and has let an iconic player like McCutchen be traded for a reliever and an average prospect, reality is that this is how the Pirates are ran, and the major disappointment in the long-term for an organization that operates on their own doing as a small market team (when they really aren’t) is that you had this superstar player in Andrew McCutchen and at the end of the day this is all they could flip him for.

If you weren’t going to spend in 2017 to try to close the gap on the Cubs, McCutchen needed to be traded last winter to give themselves a chance of getting a stronger return than one year out.

As unpopular as trading McCutchen has been and disappointing that the McCutchen era is over, where the Pirates failed here was not starting this process last winter.

In evaluating everything the Pirates do, you have to put the lens on in how they operate, not how we think they should in the obvious that Bob Nutting should be adjusting to the times and increasing the payroll to $120 million range and not thinking twice about it.

However, the way they operate and run this organization, the team waited too long to move McCutchen.


“We felt this was the best return,” Neal Huntington said of the McCutchen trade.

So what are the Pirates getting back for McCutchen?

In Kyle Crick the Pirates are getting a hard throwing reliever who struggles with command.

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Crick, 25, had a 3.06 ERA, 28 strikeouts in 32⅓ innings and a .191 opponents’ batting average.

The Pirates, internally though, believe Crick could evolve in a dominant eighth inning reliever.

“Kyle Crick is a physical, Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com