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Pirates flexible in contract talks with All-Star outfielder McCutchen

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Monday, Feb. 27, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. — Although talks remain stalled, the Pirates are willing to work out a multiyear contract with center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

A team source Sunday told the Tribune-Review that the Pirates do not consider the initial gap of about $10 million between the sides to be insurmountable.

McCutchen, the No. 11 pick in the 2005 draft, turned down offers before the 2010 and '11 seasons. No substantial talks have been held since last year, when the sides were far apart on financial terms.

McCutchen's camp likes the $51 million deals given to Arizona's Justin Upton and Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, two other standout outfielders from the 2005 draft class. The Pirates prefer a package closer to $40 million. Sunday, the Washington Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the fourth pick in 2005, agreed to a six-year extension worth $100 million.

McCutchen, who made $453,000 last year, cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season. But as his status continues to grow — he was an All-Star for the first time last year — the cost to sign him will skyrocket.

The team has until March 11 to set McCutchen's salary for this season. Next year, he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time and in line for a substantial raise.

Without commenting specifically about McCutchen, owner Bob Nutting said the Pirates have both the interest and financial flexibility to do long-term deals with key players.

"That's important and something we need to continue to look at," he said. "We are indeed reaching a point — it might not be an absolute urgency — but we absolutely have a commitment and desire to see that happen."

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