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CF McCutchen's deal with Pirates finally falls into place

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. — The multiyear contract All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen agreed to means Pirates fans can finally put Barry Bonds behind them.

After the 1992 season, Bonds left the Pirates and took a six-year, $43.75 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Ever since, the Pirates have been searching for their next great young star.

McCutchen could be that player, and this time the Pirates will not let him get away.

McCutchen, 25, agreed to a six-year contract worth $51.5 million. The deal, which will be finalized today, is the second-largest package in team history. Jason Kendall got a six-year, $60 million contract in 2000.

This year, McCutchen will make $500,000 plus a $1.25 million signing bonus. He will get $4.5 million in 2013, $7.25 million in 2014, $10 million in 2015, $13 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017. For 2018, there is a $14.75 million club option or a $1 million buyout.

Talks were slow at times, but things got moving quickly Sunday. By late in the evening a deal was in place.

McCutchen smiled Monday when asked about his new contract.

"I can't say anything until my name's on that dotted line," he said.

General manager Neal Huntington declined to comment on McCutchen's status until the contract is formally announced.

By buying out all three arbitration years and at least his first two years of free agency, the Pirates ensure McCutchen will play for them during what should be the prime of his career. Also, his contract is proof management can follow through on its plan to lock up its core, young players — something that no doubt has caught the attention of Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and the top prospects in the farm system.

"Definitely, it should be a big deal to Pittsburgh," said Steve Hammond, McCutchen's agent. "The Pirates could've said, 'We can't do this, he's too good a player and it will take too much money.' Andrew could've gone through arbitration and into free agency and signed somewhere else. But we're here, and we're staying."

The process took more than two years and included two earlier contract offers that were spurned by McCutchen. The talks went in fits and starts, with periods of intense negotiation followed by weeks or even months of limited contact.

As they tried to sign McCutchen, the Pirates also were negotiating with Walker. At the time, the Pirates figured Walker might be easier to sign. If Walker came to terms first, the team would try to use that as leverage in talks with McCutchen.

By the end of last season, things were quiet between Hammond and the team.

As its template for a deal, McCutchen's camp was using the six-year, $51 million contracts given to two other standout outfielders from the 2005 draft: Arizona's Justin Upton and Cincinnati's Jay Bruce.

McCutchen was the 11th pick in the 2005 draft. Upton was first overall, and Bruce was the 12th pick in the same draft.

The Pirates were focused on an amount about $10 million less.

In the offseason, the talks reignited. Owner Bob Nutting, convinced of McCutchen's star power, approved funding to hike the Pirates' proposal. This was different from the team's approach under different ownership in '92, when Bonds never got a serious offer before bolting.

"It was clear to us that the Pirates were very serious about making Andrew a priority," Hammond said. "They negotiated like it was important to them. They were tough, but fair."

Now that McCutchen's contract is done, the Pirates will shift their focus to Walker. A source close to those talks Monday said "a lot of work still needs to be done" and that a deal does not seem imminent.

The complication with Walker is that he will gain Super Two status after this season, meaning he will gain an extra year of arbitration eligibility — which is leverage for the player.

McCutchen is among five Pirates signed beyond this season.

Last August, Jose Tabata got a six-year, $15 million extension. Clint Barmes, A.J. Burnett and Alvarez also will be back. There also is a $3.5 million club option in Rod Barajas' contract.

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2012 Pirates Spring Training

2012 Pirates Spring Training

Photos from Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Florida.

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