Philadelphia Phillies: Cutch now has to earn his money?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 15: Philadelphia Phillies Outfield Andrew McCutchen (22) smiles in the dugout before the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies on May 15, 2019 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 15: Philadelphia Phillies Outfield Andrew McCutchen (22) smiles in the dugout before the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies on May 15, 2019 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Phillies fans now have a new target for their ire at overpriced and underperforming veterans.

An enduring sport among Philadelphia Phillies fans and those who write about the team is arguing about whether a given player has been paid too much. There has been an ample supply in red pinstripes of players damned as overpaid, most recently starter Jake Arrieta.

Most MLB fans know that Arrieta signed a three-year contract with the Phillies in early 2018, and even though the pitcher didn’t collect his full $20 million salary this year, Philadelphia had already shelled out $55 million in the past two years for an 18-19 won-lost record, and a 4-plus ERA. In the abbreviated most recent season, the veteran was 4-4 with a 5-plus ERA.

So, in the Delaware Valley, this is considered a mistake, no matter how hard Jake battled.

More Phillies. Time to wake up Ned Rice. light

All Phillies fans can point to numerous other such “errors” in the team’s history, now possibly including the pricey contract awarded to Scott Kingery before he had played even a single MLB inning. And after the Phillies collapse in 2020, it was not surprising to see another member of the Fightin’s identified for possible near-future fan discontent because of his cost.

The new target, courtesy of the ruminations of NBC Sports Philly writer Corey Seidman, is Andrew McCutchen.

Like Arrieta, McCutchen is working on an expensive three-year deal. He is slated to make $20 million next season with an incentive to have the Phillies exercise a $15 million-option for his age-35 season in 2022.

The essence of Seidman’s argument is that McCutchen is overpaid because he’s making more money than Michael Brantley, who is currently producing, offensively, more than McCutchen. This is sort of true, but mostly because of the fact that Brantley just made $32 million on a two-year contract with Houston, whereas McCutchen has a longer contract.

Since he is now a free agent, no one really knows what Brantley will make next year. He may still pass McCutchen’s aggregate $47 million (on paper) for 2019-21, but since he is almost exactly the same age as McCutchen, his biggest payday may have passed him by.

And to give Seidman credit, he does point out that McCutchen’s 2019 campaign was cut short by a torn ACL (caused in part by a teammate’s lack of hustle), and that could be part of his less than stellar current numbers.

It’s unpleasant, however, to consider McCutchen to be holding a lousy contract after the past two weird seasons for him (and everybody else in 2020, to be sure).

He is no longer an MVP-type player, true, but he still has one of the quickest bats in baseball, and he is still a home run threat as well as a leadoff hitter with quite good judgment. His 34 RBI this past summer were not all that far off the team leader’s 40.

Moreover, McCutchen is just a fun player to watch. Beyond his talent, he brings an infectious sense of humor to the Phillies family. While I’m not terribly taken with his social media alter-ego, Uncle Larry, an irascible imaginary relative, I’ve found myself laughing out loud at his dugout and outfield antics now and then.

His best bit was pretending to talk with the cardboard COVID fans in the left field stands at Citizens Bank Park, and occasionally tossing one of them a ball after an inning’s third out. Contrast this to Arrieta’s attempts at “leadership,” which came off as a bit too critical of teammates at times.

McCutchen undoubtedly helps keep his teammates loose. Arrieta, I’d bet lots of money, did not.

dark. Next. Considering the Phillies needs now

Unless Andrew McCutchen crashes and burns in 2021, Phillies fans should consider the money spent on him to be well-spent, even if it ends up being a bit more than necessary.