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Pirates willing to go to “great lengths” to keep McCutchen past current contract
Andrew McCutchen is currently under what is easily one of baseball’s most team-friendly contracts, with the Pirates owing the 2013 NL MVP just $37 million over the next three years before having the option to bring him back for $14.5 million in 2018. The center fielder has emerged as one of the top players in the game and the face of the Pirates, tallying upwards of six WARP each of the past three seasons while helping the club to two straight postseason berths after the franchise had gone two decades without one.

McCutchen has been at the center of baseball becoming relevant again in Pittsburgh, and Pirates owner Bob Nutting understandably wants to see his superstar remain with the club for the foreseeable future. On Wednesday, Nutting told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he hopes to see McCutchen wear a Pirates uniform “for a long, long time.” Within that article, Biertempfel writes that there are no active talks regarding an extension but industry sources tell him that if the club does open talks they are willing to go “to great lengths” to lock up McCutchen even if the AAV is upwards of $25 million.

We’ve seen this before with Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria, who all received extensions on top of their team-friendly extensions numerous years before they were set to hit the free agent market. Below are the figures that all three players had remaining on their contracts at the time of their extensions (I included Tulowitzki’s club options and Longoria’s three years of club options) and the additional contract that their clubs tacked on.

Years remaining (including options)

Money remaining (including options)

Years on extension

Guaranteed money on extension

Tulowitzki

4

$38.75 million

6 (w/club opt)

$119 ($15m option)

Braun

5

$40.5 million

5 (w/mutual opt)

$105 ($15m option)

Longoria

4

$36 million

6 (w/club opt)

$100 ($13m option)

Tulowitzki had just turned 26 years old when he signed his extension, while Braun and Longoria were both 27. McCutchen turned 28 in October and the Pirates have at least three years of team control remaining, so they’re by no means in a rush to make a decision. Given what Tulowitzki, Braun and Longoria got (not to mention that those contracts were three-plus years ago), one would assume the Pirates would have to pay out nine figures to keep McCutchen in Pittsburgh. Such a move would certainly be risky for a team with less financial margin for error like the Pirates, given that even a conservative four-year extension would pay McCutchen premium dollar for the decline years through his age-35 season.

It’s way too early to speculate further on the exact figures or how this will ultimately play out but it’s a topic that will certainly be worth keeping an eye on going forward.

Gee, not Syndergaard, next in line should Mets rotation need arise

As it’s currently constructed, the Mets’ rotation is a crowded place. Terry Collins has six hurlers returning to camp who made starts for the team last season, plus the return of Matt Harvey. But the Mets skipper didn’t waste much time revealing how he expects his starting rotation to shake out, telling reporters on Wednesday that Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jonathan Niese and Bartolo Colon are his likely starting five. That leaves Dillon Gee and Rafael Montero on the outside looking in while confirming that the chances of youngsters Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz starting the year with the big-league club are extremely slim.

However, Collins made it clear that the organization won’t rush the development of their young arms at the expense of team needs; should a rotation spot at the big-league level open up due to injury or poor performance, the skipper told Marc Carig of Newsday, among others, that it’s Gee who is next in line. This comes after general manager Sandy Alderson told the media last week that neither Syndergaard nor Matz is a candidate for the Mets bullpen, indicating that neither pitcher will get the call until he truly shows he has nothing left to prove in the minors.

A year ago, the 28-year-old Gee took the ball on Opening Day for the Mets, but the return of Harvey and the emergence of deGrom should relegate him to a long-relief role to start the season. Such a move to the bullpen for the right-hander would also spell bad news for Montero, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, who tweeted Wednesday that the indication from Collins is that Gee’s presence in the ‘pen would make Montero a “long-shot” at making it as well.

As for Syndergaard, the 22-year-old was humbled at Triple-A last season in the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League and will seemingly get additional time to make adjustments and fine-tune some final facets of his game. In the Mets Top 10 list from November, Chris Mellen wrote,

The command and mindset are where the growth needs to occur to reach his frontline potential. Syndergaard fills the zone with strikes, but throws too many meaty ones and likes to pitch more north than south with his fastball. Reports from later in the year indicated the 22-year-old was adjusting and it is expected that will continue.

If Syndergaard polishes his command and continues to display the bat-missing stuff that has him heralded as one of the game’s top pitching prospects, it will be difficult for the Mets to leave him at Vegas for much longer. But until that time comes, the club appears content relying on its pitching depth at the big-league level.

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