PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts as he rounds ... [+] the bases after hitting a grand slam home run in the second inning during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at PNC Park on September 26, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The grand slam home run was the first of McCutchen's career. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)Getty Images
For the first time since 2017, Andrew McCutchen will wear the black and gold for the Pirates, after signing a one-year, $5 million deal to return to Pittsburgh. And while the initial reaction is a full-circle moment for a player with one of the best primes in modern history, this should be treated in a similar respect as Albert Pujols' return to St. Louis. Not to directly compare the two, but Andrew McCutchen's peak rivaled some of the best careers of any player to wear the Pirates uniform. In 9 seasons, starting when he was just 22 years old, McCutchen had a slash line of .291/.379/.487, giving him an OPS+ of 136 while primarily playing center field. In terms of totals, McCutchen collected over 1,400 hits, 200 home runs, and 170 stolen bases, which gave him 40.4 total WAR.
He was a 5-time All-Star, MVP, and received MVP votes in 4 separate seasons. The last time a Pirate won the MVP was Barry Bonds in 1992, and he's just the 6th Pirate in franchise history to hoist the trophy. But outside of his personal accolades, the McCutchen-led Pirates were the last group to go to the playoffs since 1992, making the postseason in three consecutive years from 2013-2015.
Now, despite the lack of a deep postseason run in this window, McCutchen was the franchise player in the first team to break their 21-year postseason drought, which alone should warrant a much warmer welcome than anticipated.
Especially in the veteran role he'll serve with a hopeful future in Pittsburgh.PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 18: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates on deck in the sixth inning ... [+] during the game against the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park on May 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)Getty Images In 2022, the average age of the lineup was just over 25-years old. After the loss of Jose Quintana at the trade deadline, the pitching staff's average age was even younger, also at 25-years old. With 2023 being the anticipatory year for a handful of their top prospects, including a potential MLB berth of their top prospect and baseball's 19th prospect Henry Davis, Andrew McCutchen will prove to be a pivotal role in the prospects upbringing, alongside the guidance over the team's stars in Bryan Reynolds and Oneil Cruz. A role that goes much further than his numbers may this upcoming season, and could be much more valuable than the $5 million he is being paid this year.
But, in terms of his production on the diamond, McCutchen is up for some significant milestones.
He currently sits 52 hits away from 2,000, 13 home runs away from 300, 17 walks away from 1,000, and 8 doubles away from 400.
But, regardless of how the former MVP produces this upcoming season, Pittsburgh fans and baseball fans overall should rejoice to see him in the appropriate colors this year, as it truly is a homecoming for a franchise-altering player.