Jay Bruce and Justin Upton are both represented by Steve Hammond and received deals that were approximately six years long and worth $51 million. Andrew McCutchen is also represented by Hammond, and the Pittsburgh Pirates gave the face of their franchise a similar six year deal worth $51.5 million that includes an option for a seventh year. The final two of the six season are free agent years, and the deal amounts to about $8.6 million per year for the superstar outfielder.
One of the brightest stars in baseball, Andrew McCutchen was worth 3.5 and 3.7 WAR in two solid seasons to start his career in 2009 and 2010. However, the 25-year-old CF broke out in a big way last season with a 5.7 WAR. He had his first season with a positive UZR, continued to develop his power stroke, and he walked more often. McCutchen’s BABIP was done, but that didn’t affect his numbers overall, because he made up for it with walks. His BA of .259 was down from his .286 average in both 2009 and 2010, but his OBP only went down from .365 in ’09 and ’10 to .364 in ’11.
The crazy thing about the comparisons to the deals given to Upton and Bruce is that McCutchen plays center and is simply the better player when looking at the time of the extension. There is also the fact that contracts given to young, talented outfielders are rising. The Pirates got off a dream deal here, because they have locked up McCutchen on the cheap during his prime years.
Pirates fans need to rejoice, cry, or show some sort of abnormal magnitude of happiness towards this deal. McCutchen is one of the best players in the game, and he’s just 25. And oh yeah, there’s the matter of him being the best player on the team and something of a hero in Pittsburgh. At CF, the upside and value is immense, and this has to rank among the most important deals in recent memory for Pirates fans. Andrew McCutchen is as talented as it gets when looking at players at the age of 25 or under, and he has to be worth just 1.9 WAR per year to fulfill the value of this contract. There is no doubt that McCutchen will be at least a league average player over those seasons, and he will have some big 6 and 7 WAR seasons sprinkled around in the years of his contract.
Based on the projections provided by FanGraphs and the Simple WAR Calculator developed by Lewie Pollis, McCutchen’s projected WAR total for the 2012 season is 5.6 WAR. Below are his projections over the course of the extension (numbers rounded to nearest .5).
2012 (age 25): 5.5 WAR
2013 (age 26): 6 WAR
2014 (age 27): 7 WAR
2015 (age 28): 6 WAR
2016 (age 29): 5 WAR
2017 (age 30): 4.5 WAR
This means that Andrew McCutchen should be worth 34 WAR over the course of this deal, which means that he will provide the Pirates with $150 million in value ($25 million per year). 25-year-old CFs are incredibly valuable commodities, and this is definitely within the realm of possibility for the young superstar. In fact, it is what is expected from McCutchen.
Pirates fans have been longing for a guy like McCutchen to electrify this team, and they have him locked up for the foreseeable future at this point under a very team-friendly deal. Handing out extensions to star players is the most important thing for a franchise to do and is one of the best ways to succeed as a team; you have to keep your young stars locked up. It’s easy to do this, because you are basically trading guaranteed money and security for arbitration years. Deals like this are always team friendly, because players don’t make nearly as much from arbitration as they would on the open market.
It is important to realize that Andrew McCutchen outperforming the parameters of this deal are expected, and the WAR/$ is just used to show the overall value of McCutchen. This is not to show how much money the Pirates have saved, because that has to do with arbitration years and one pre-arb season that occurs next season.
Overall, this was a terrific deal for the Pirates front office, and it’s incredible how they have locked up a 5-6 WAR player at a league-average amount per year for the prime of his career. Again, just a remarkable deal for the franchise, and this is the dream extension. Well done, and I hope Pirates fans everywhere are celebrating, because I am. Did I forget to drop the bomb on you guys? I was born right across from Three Rivers, so I’m definitely going nuts. The front office has made two smart moves recently, with the earlier one being a less spectacular move but was still a solid one; the acquisition of A.J. Burnett.
Follow Joe Soriano on Twitter here, and be sure to check back on Call to the Pen for season previews of every team, including the Pittsburgh Pirates. Check out Rum Bunter for everything about the Pirates.