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Pirates pick up option on Andrew McCutchen for 2018

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, 3:36 p.m.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates with Adam Frazier after hitting his first career grand slam during the second inning against the Orioles Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates with Adam Frazier after hitting his first career grand slam during the second inning against the Orioles Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at PNC Park.
Andrew McCutchen 2017 head shot
Andrew McCutchen 2017 head shot

Andrew McCutchen will stay with the Pirates at least a little while longer after the club on Thursday picked up his $14.75 million contract option for 2018.

The Pirates could have bought out the option for $1 million, which would have made McCutchen a free agent.

There remains a possibility that McCutchen could be traded before the start of next season. The winter meetings, MLB's annual offseason trade and free agency bazaar, will be held Dec. 11-14 in Orlando.

If General manager Neal Huntington ops to deal McCutchen, the best return might be had via an offseason trade. If McCutchen is dealt after the start of the regular season, he'll be ineligible to receive a qualifying offer for 2019 from his new team.

McCutchen, 31, signed a six-year, $51.5 million deal before the 2012 season. He has repeatedly said he would like to end his career with the Pirates, but the club has given no outward sign it's willing to hammer out another extension.

In 2016, McCutchen put up the worst numbers (.256 average, .336 on-base percentage, .430 slugging) of his career. This past season, he rebounded to bat .279/.363/.486.

Also on Wednesday, the Pirates bought out the 2018 options of left-handed reliever Wade LeBlanc and backup catcher Chris Stewart. LeBlanc was outright to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Stewart, 35, played in just 51 games this year and has battled various leg injuries. LeBlanc, 33, made just five appearances over the final seven weeks of the season.

The Pirates have four players eligible for salary arbitration: Gerrit Cole (who made $3.75 million this year), Felipe Rivero ($564,500), Jordy Mercer ($4.325 million) and George Kontos ($1.75 million). The deadline to tender those players contracts is Dec. 2.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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