Welcome Home, Andrew McCutchen
This baseball season the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans will welcome home a player who should have never left in the first place. 2023 marks the return of outfielder Andrew McCutchen returning to the Bucs after playing last season with the Milwaukee Brewers.
McCutchen’s career began with a baseball scholarship to the University of Florida but the Pirates also drafted him with the 11th overall pick in 2005. ‘Cutch chose professional baseball over a collegiate career. For that, he received a $1.9 million contract signing bonus along with his regular contract with Pittsburgh.
Heading into the 2006 season, “Baseball America” placed McCutchen as the 50th-best prospect in the minor leagues. Three years later, Cutch made his major league debut. For a rookie, he had an excellent season hitting .286 including 1 home run, 54 RBIs, nine triples, 26 doubles, and scoring 74 runs. In the Rookie of the Year Award voting, McCutchen finished fourth behind Chris Coghlan who won the honor, and then J.A. Happ, and Tommy Hanson.
McCutchen’s career with the Pirates was off and running. Not only did Cutch become one of the best players in the league, but he was also in the Most Valuable Player Award running in four straight seasons from 2012 to 2015 winning the award in 2013. That season the Pirates centerfielder hit .317 and smacked 21-round trippers. He added 185 hits, 38 doubles, five triples, and knocked in 84 RBIs. More important was how he contributed to the success of the Bucs that season.
In 2013 the Pirates finished second in the National League’s Central Division with a 94-68 record. They made the postseason as a wild-card team and had to take on the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. The game will go down as one of the most memorable in the Pirates' playoff history.
It was that wild card game that the Pirates won but the crowd was raucous helping chase Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto from the game by chanting his name over and over again while he was surrendering back-to-back home runs to Marlin Byrd and Russell Martin who added a second homer in the game. Cueto only lasted 3 1/3 innings giving up four earned runs and eight hits. But the fans were as loud as any Buccos fans have ever been.
As for McCutchen in that historic game, he had three at-bats, two hits, and scored once in the 6-2 victory. He also had two walks. 2013 was Pittsburgh’s first playoff game in 21 years their last appearance coming in 1992 when they capped off a third consecutive playoff appearance each time losing in the National League championship series.
The Pirates would lose to the Cardinals in that 2013 division series three games to two and then make the playoffs the next two seasons only to lose both in the wild-card round. In the playoffs which include the New York Yankees where Cutch would play later, his average was only .239 but that number was lowered by the numbers that came with New York. With just the Pirates he hit .321. In six series with the Bucs and Yanks, he failed to hit a single home run.
Pittsburgh’s success was short-lived and after three straight playoff appearances, they have not had a winning season since outside of finishing 82-79 in 2018. In 2016, McCutchen’s batting average dropped to .256 despite hitting 24 home runs and a season later he got his number back to .279 with 28 dingers.
Then came the 2016 winter meetings and Pittsburgh’s GM started giving thoughts to trading Andrew McCutchen. This did not sit well with Cutch who had indicated he wanted to spend his entire career in the ‘Burgh. Huntington had talks with the Washington Nationals but no deal could be made. McCutchen went as far as to search his name on the internet to see if there was any news on his possible movement elsewhere.
Then the bomb was dropped on January 15, 2018, when Huntington pulled the trigger and traded Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for cash and Kyle Crick, Bryan Reynolds, and international bonus slot money in the amount of $500,000. This left Andrew McCutchen and Pirates fans very disappointed. Cutch was a fan favorite at PNC and admired by all.
While with Pittsburgh, Andrew McCutchen appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show airing December 11, 2013. On that show, he proposed to his girlfriend of many years Maria Hanslovan. Hanslovan hails from Dubois, Pennsylvania and she accepted the proposal and the two married on November 23, 2014. Three years later, the couple had a son. Then in 2021, a daughter came to the family after Maria gave birth.
The McCutchen’s settled their family in Pittsburgh where they still live today despite Cutch’s movement around the league. It appeared Andrew McCutchen would never return to Pittsburgh to play baseball as the Giants after just one season traded him to the New York Yankees for Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. The Yankees had a personal appearance policy and thus McCutchen did away with his beard. Having worn jersey number 22 his entire career, he was forced to wear #26 since the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury was already wearing the number.
Following the 2018 season, McCutchen became a free agent and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a three-year deal but in his first season in Philly, he injured his knee on June 3 and suffered a torn ACL put him on IR for the rest of that season. He had played in just 59 games and the next season only 57 games did McCutchen appear.
It appeared on returning from the injury that Andrew McCutchen’s career was on the downslide. In 2021 with the Phillies he played in 144 games but managed to hit just .222 but still hit 27 home runs. With his three-year deal up in Philadelphia, the Milwaukee Brewers took a chance on McCutchen inking him to a one-year contract. Last season McCutchen had another low batting average year finishing with a .237 average. With only 17 home runs and 69 RBIs, McCutchen also struck out 124 times making it two straight seasons with over 120 strikeouts.
With his career in jeopardy, on January 20 this year, the Pirates brought Andrew McCutchen back home nearly five years to the day that Neal Huntington traded him away, a deal that probably should have never taken place. For the record, the men that were given up for McCutchen have not had stellar careers, to say the least.
Bryan Reynolds remains with the Pirates now heading into his fifth season where he has done fairly well hitting .281 in his first four seasons with the Bucs. Last season Reynolds hit 27 home runs with 62 RBIs. But 2021 was his best season hitting .302 with 27-round trippers and leading the league with eight triples. Pitcher Kyle Crick on the other hand spent four seasons in Pittsburgh and last year with the Chicago White Sox throwing in 187 1/3 innings in six seasons. He has posted a 7-11 career record with a 3.56 ERA.
While the Yankees sent Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula to the Giants for McCutchen, Avelino spent two seasons with the Giants and is now out of Major League Baseball. As for Juan De Paula, he was sent to the minors and never called up to the bigs and is too also out of baseball in 2023 having played his last minor league game in 2021.
For Pirates fans, they will surely welcome Andrew McCutchen with open arms on opening day this year. It has already been said that he will be in the starting lineup that day. For those who remember his image of wearing dreadlocks, those are long gone. Cutch cut them off in 2015 and sold them in an auction on Major League Baseball’s website as all the proceeds benefitted Pittsburgh Pirates charities.
One thing is for sure about the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully, for fans, the team will improve on the 100-loss season they had last year finishing in fourth place. But the presence of Andrew McCutchen on the team will bring out more fans to PNC Park.
The Spring training schedule begins February 25 when the Pirates take on Toronto and it is not known as of this writing whether Cutch will play in that game. The Pirates' home opener is set for Friday, April 7 and you can bet that will be a sellout and expect an extended standing ovation with Andrew McCutchen taking his place in center field. The Pirates are playing the Chicago White Sox so it remains to be seen if the designated hitter rule will be in effect and if it is whether Cutch is the DH or playing the outfield. Either way, it will be an exciting and very emotional day for both the fans and Andrew McCutchen.