Since starting his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009, Andrew McCutchen has been the team’s franchise player and the key ingredient for getting the Pirates back in the playoffs in 2013 to break their 20 year long playoff drought. The 2013 NL MVP has been a reliable bat in the heart of the Pirates lineup while patrolling center field but it seems like those days have come to an end.
This past Super Bowl Sunday manager Clint Hurdle made an announcement saying that McCutchen will move from center field to right field, Gregory Polanco moving from right field to left, and Starling Marte from left field to center field meaning that all three players will be manning new positions next year. “We believe this alignment will maximize our outfield production,” Hurdle said in his statement. “Our men were very professional and respectful of the team and each other throughout the process, and are selfless in helping us strengthen our team defensively.”
Maybe a change of scenery is what McCutchen needs after enduring the worst season of his pro career last year not only in the field but also at the plate. After management had McCutchen play a shallow center field last year to try and help him get to balls easier, he wound up grading out as the worst defender in all of baseball. He had a minus-28 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), which calculates how many runs a player prevented or allowed relative to the average player. His production at the plate was just as bad where he posted career lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage with a .256/.336/.430 clip. McCutchen also whiffed a career high 143 times but had similar power numbers of years past with 24 homers and driving in 79 runs.
Being the subject of trade rumors throughout the off-season the Pirates nearly traded McCutchen to the Washington Nationals before deciding to keep him around to at least start the year in Pittsburgh. You always see stars who play such grueling positions make a position change in the twilight of their careers and this is a prime example of such. Reaching 30 years old now and having logged 10,317 innings in center field, there is a whole lot of wear and tear on McCutchen’s knees making this move come at the perfect time for him. I believe that this move will help keep his legs fresh while giving more ground to young stars Marte and Polanco, which they can certainly handle. The Pirates now have a much better defensive outfield and hopefully production from McCutchen of years past while McCutchen doesn’t need to put his body through the every day demands of playing enter field which will improve his numbers at the plate. All in all a good move for both parties.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Pittsburgh Pirates article is published, fill out our email notification form