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Pirates

McCutchen glad to remain with team after hearing trade rumors

| Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, 2:39 p.m.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen takes a ball from Mason Sieg, 4, of Gibsonia during an autograph session at PirateFest Saturday Dec. 10, 2016, at the David L. Lawrence convention center downtown.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen takes a ball from Mason Sieg, 4, of Gibsonia during an autograph session at PirateFest Saturday Dec. 10, 2016, at the David L. Lawrence convention center downtown.

Before the start of this past season, Andrew McCutchen said he wanted to play for the Pirates until the end of his career.

Yet, the team never approached McCutchen about a contract extension. During last week's MLB winter meetings, the Pirates came close to trading McCutchen to the Washington Nationals.

Does McCutchen still hope to finish his playing days with the Pirates?

“I don't know if that can happen,” McCutchen said flatly on Saturday.

McCutchen said he followed the trade rumors on Twitter. The reports did not surprise him, but McCutchen admitted his emotions were bruised.

“I'd be lying if I told you it didn't bother me that my name was out there,” McCutchen said during an appearance at PirateFest. “Of course it did. I'm human. Someone cuts you off while you're driving, you get bothered. To hear my name … of course that got to me.”

After talks with the Nationals broke down — Washington wound up sending three players to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton — Pirates general manager Neal Huntington indicated McCutchen will stay put. McCutchen is signed through next season with a club option for 2018.

Huntington spoke with McCutchen to clear the air after the winter meetings.

“We had a really good conversation and we ended it on good terms,” McCutchen said. “I do understand he has a job (to do). I don't understand what he has to do. I can't empathize with that, just like he can't empathize with what I could be going through, the challenges I face.”

Huntington offered no promises about McCutchen's future with the Pirates.

“I didn't get any assurances other than I'm in this uniform as of right now,” McCutchen said. “That's where I'm at. As far as (the 2018 season) or the (July 31 trade deadline), I don't know.”

According to McCutchen, the Pirates have never approached him about an extension on the six-year, $51.5 million contract he signed before the 2012 season. McCutchen said he's open to a new deal.

“I've always said I want to be a Pirate and I want to retire as a Pirate,” McCutchen said. “That hasn't changed just because of my name being in trade (talks).”

Team president Frank Coonelly declined to say whether the team will consider a contract extension. There also is no indication whether the Pirates will trigger McCutchen's option for 2018.

“The future is, we're looking forward to having Andrew with us for as long as Andrew is with us,” Coonelly said. “We'll talk about that in the spring. Let's deal with 2017 now.”

McCutchen was the the center of attention at PirateFest, where he signed autographs for season-ticket holders for 90 minutes. Long-time fan Ray Andreoletti, 57, of Ross Township, opened the “Ask Pirates Management” Q&A session with a plea to extend McCutchen's contract.

“It's been going around in my head all week,” Andreoletti said. “I made sure I was first in line.”

McCutchen's teammates also are aware of the rumors. Many of them kept in touch with him over the past few days.

“It's obviously undesirable if he's going to get traded,” pitcher Gerrit Cole said. “But it's part of the business.”

Even if McCutchen is in the lineup on opening day, he likely will not be in his usual position in center field. McCutchen's defense has lagged the past couple of seasons, and management wants to switch him to a corner spot.

“Center, right, left … I'm just happy I'm still playing,” McCutchen said. “We'll have more of a definitive answer going into spring training.”

After this weekend, McCutchen will fly home to Florida. He will work out at the Pirate City complex but does not plan to attend the team's voluntary minicamp in early January.

Last season, he batted .256 with a .766 OPS — both career lows — and struck out in nearly a quarter of his at-bats. Although he has battled thumb and knee injuries, McCutchen refused to blame them for his poor performance.

“I just didn't have it. It just wasn't there,” he said. “We all have little, nagging injuries here and there. I had those, but it wasn't something that hindered me. I didn't produce the way I wanted to, plain and simple.”

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

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