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Stats Corner: McCutchen's contract extension brings huge cost savings

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By David Golebiewski
Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

MLB is awash in cash, with TV rights deals pushing annual revenues past $8 billion during the 2013 season and potentially hitting $9 billion in 2014. Those expanded revenue streams have increased the cost of retaining and acquiring talent: the median team payroll projects to be north of $100 million for the upcoming season, according to Fangraphs. On the free agent market, clubs spent around $6 million to improve by a single game in the standings.

The Pirates, projected for the third-lowest opening day payroll ($71.5 million) in the majors, won't have to worry about rival clubs luring Andrew McCutchen away. The reigning National League MVP is a mega-star, but his team-friendly contract will keep him in town through at least 2017 for a fraction of his free agent worth.

Through age 26, McCutchen ranks third in franchise history in wins above replacement, which measures a player's offensive, defensive and base running value compared to a waiver wire-type talent. Only Arky Vaughan and Barry Bonds shined brighter so early in their careers.

So good, so soon

Player Years WAR through age 26

Arky Vaughan 1932-38 47.9

Barry Bonds 1986-91 38.9

Andrew McCutchen 2009-13 27.2

Paul Waner 1926-29 25.5

Ralph Kiner 1946-49 24.3


While Bonds bolted for San Francisco in his late 20s, McCutchen signed a long-term deal two years ago that looks like a steal. McCutchen figures to be worth six to seven wins per season over the duration of his contract, according to the Oliver projection system on Fangraphs. Compared to what McCutchen likely would have made through salary arbitration and free agency, his extension may end up saving the Pirates nearly $130 million.

Year Projected WAR Estimated salary* Actual salary

2014 6.8 $24.5 M $7.2 M

2015 6.7 $33.8 M $10 M

2016 6.4 $42 M $13 M

2017 6.3 $43.8 M $14 M

2018+ 6.0 $43.8 M $14.5 M

Total 32.2 $187.9 M $58.7 M

*Assumes McCutchen would have made 60 percent of his free agent salary during his second year of arbitration (2014) and 80 percent during his third (2015) and that MLB salaries will increase by 5 percent per year from 2014-18

+Club Option

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