February 6, 2017
Got to Begin Again (And It's Hard)
McCutchen moving to right field in 2017
The Pirates are ready to move Andrew McCutchen this season, but not to another team. Instead, they’re switching things up in the outfield, where McCutchen will shift from center field to right field, left fielder Starling Marte will be stationed in center, and right fielder Gregory Polanco will take over duties in left field.
In a statement released by the team on Sunday, manager Clint Hurdle described the new defensive alignment as the result of a lengthy evaluation process. The arrangement, he said, was intended to “maximize [their] outfield production” as McCutchen looks to bounce back from a career-worst performance. While the 30-year-old has exclusively played center field throughout his eight-year career, he doesn’t appear to anticipate any issues with the transition to right field. Marte, meanwhile, looks poised for a more challenging position after capping an outstanding defensive and offensive year with an All-Star bid and Gold Glove award in 2016.
The club was reportedly fielding trade offers for McCutchen from several teams during the winter meetings, but didn’t find the return they were looking for and decided not to pursue any trades prior to the 2017 season. It could be a prudent move on the Pirates’ part, particularly if McCutchen takes well to the outfield corners. He’ll remain under club control through 2017 and holds a $14.75 million option for the 2018 season.
Victorino’s comeback delayed by cyst
The Magic 8-Ball guiding Shane Victorino’s return was shaken a second time on Saturday, shifting from “As I see it, yes” to a vague “Cannot predict now.”
A report from the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo revealed that the 36-year-old outfielder recently underwent a cyst removal under his arm, which is classified as a minor surgery but expected to delay his return to the field this spring.
Victorino was released by the Cubs last May and has not set foot on a major-league field since his stint with the Angels in 2015. He reportedly received a minor-league offer from a mystery team in January, but agent John Boggs told Cafardo that he had not gotten instructions from Victorino to accept or reject the deal. While his decision could hinge on a return to full health, it seems equally plausible that he’s holding out for a major-league deal based on the Triple-A offers he rejected last October.
Kang committed to alcohol treatment program
Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang is still facing the repercussions of a tumultuous 2016, during which he was investigated for allegations of sexual assault and arrested after crashing his car into a guard rail in South Korea while intoxicated. According to a new report from Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Kang has committed to an alcohol treatment program that was recommended by a joint treatment board during the offseason.
Completion of the program will likely lessen whatever future punishment MLB seeks against the infielder, who has already had his driver’s license revoked due to multiple infractions and was removed from South Korea’s World Baseball Classic roster last month. Seoul police are pursuing an indictment against Kang and his friend, who was also in the car at the time of the incident.
Brink adds that Kang’s visa eligibility may be affected by his DUI arrest. It’s his third such incident in South Korea since 2009, and his first since he made the switch to the MLB circuit in 2015. Assuming all visa issues work out according to schedule, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Post-Gazette that he believes Kang will be “ready to go” by spring training, which is set to kick off on February 17.