Pirates willing to consider high salary to keep star McCutchen

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, 4:33 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — When Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton signed his $325 million contract in the offseason, it shook the financial landscape of baseball.

The aftershocks will be felt in the Pirates front office when the club eventually decides whether to approach Andrew McCutchen about an extension.

“Andrew's been a critical part of the team,” owner Bob Nutting said Wednesday. “I love having him in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, and I hope he (wears it) for a long, long time.”

McCutchen's six-year, $51.5 million deal runs through the 2017 season with a $14.75 million club option for '18.

The 28-year-old center fielder will make $10 million this season, making him one of the best values in baseball.

McCutchen is considered one of the game's top five players, regardless of position, yet his annual salary of $8.58 million doesn't rank among even the 50 highest for major league outfielders.

There are no active talks at this time. However, industry sources said that if the Pirates decide to open talks, they are willing to go to great lengths to keep McCutchen in Pittsburgh, even if the numbers approach the current salary stratosphere of $25 million-plus per year.

“If that happens, that will be something we'll talk about,” McCutchen said. “Right now, I'm not too worried about it. It's nothing that I'm thinking about, really. If it happens, that would be great. I look forward to it if they do that.”

With at least three years of team control remaining, the Pirates still have time to weigh their options with McCutchen.

If the Pirates opt to start extension talks, their next step would be computing what they believe his price tag should be. There are several factors to consider.

A three-time MVP finalist (he won the award in 2013), McCutchen has made only one stint on the disabled list in his first six seasons.

McCutchen has become deeply entrenched in Pittsburgh. He and his wife recently bought a home in the area, and he does extensive charity work.

McCutchen's national presence also has expanded over the past three years. Going to a larger market would put him on an even bigger stage and enhance his endorsement opportunities.

Three years after it was signed, McCutchen's contract still is the second-largest in franchise history. An extension that adds significant dollars will affect how the Pirates do business with other players, including those on the team.

According to one source, the Pirates appear to be reluctant to offer long-term deals that surpass McCutchen's total.

The number of years required to complete a extension for McCutchen also likely will come into play.

This past offseason, the Pirates re-signed 31-year-old pitcher Francisco Liriano to a three-year contract. The $39 million deal represents the most the Pirates have paid for a free agent.

The club decided to stretch its limits last winter by offering a four-year deal to 32-year-old catcher Russell Martin. He wound up taking five years and $82 million from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Will McCutchen be worth $20 million or more to the Pirates when he's in his early 30s? How long will he produce at such an elite level?

“It's a challenge we're looking forward to,” Nutting said. “At this point, it's not appropriate to dig in (and comment) on any particular player other than we really respect and appreciate what Andrew does, on and off the field.”

Nutting took a similar stance on second baseman Neil Walker, who has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining. Recent talks about a multi-year contract were short-lived and unproductive.

“Certainly, Neil has been an important part of this club,” Nutting said. “I have a tremendous respect and appreciation for everything Neil has done. I look forward to seeing him as a Pirate this year and, hopefully, for many years to come.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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