The emotional process to realize, cope then move forward mirrors McCutchen’s season arc and may explain the worst season of McCutchen’s career. A figurative knife in the heart.
Are his struggles the result of making peace with a move which in the best light would be a cold business decision and in the worst light be a betrayal of a franchise cornerstone who left tens of millions on the table to help the Pirates rebuild?
Pittsburgh fans, who are fond of comparing the business of professional athletics to their personal employment, may be able to relate. Imagine the steel workers working out the final days while knowing their time has come. Nurses or teachers who love their job working under pending job cuts. Move past the obligatory references to professionalism, million dollar babies, and other small thinking. Look at the human element. When you put the following pieces of the puzzle together, it begins to make sense.
2017 Pirates Outfield
According to independent sources, Josh Bell’s infield practice, Tuesday afternoon, was not encouraging. According to one source, “One thing is abundantly clear, Josh Bell will not be a Major League first baseman. Not tomorrow. Not next year.”
From the accounts, think Garret Jones with a case of Pedro Alvarez. If there were a white towel handy, the corner man would have stopped the drill, which had Bell ranging to his right to field a ground ball, then throwing to second base.
Bell’s buckshot throws reportedly ranged from high and wide to very high and wide. His range to the right was more awkward and clumsy than athletic.
GM Neal Huntington’s caution regarding Bell’s defense appears to have been understated. The Pirates need to find a spot for Bell’s bat in the everyday lineup, but cannot live with a player who aspires to Pedro Alvarez proficiency at first base.
Meet Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder of the future.
Gregory Polanco, as he has done this season could move to left field. Starling Marte, in the midst of a breakout year, will anchor center field. Marte and Polanco are larger and have stronger arms than McCutchen. That duo may or may not consistently surpass the offensive heights reached by McCutchen or his MVP season, but they will not be able to surpass the contribution to a perpetually sinking ship McCutchen made.
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEBUNKED
The conspiracy theories are already swirling about Jung Ho Kang and his recent disappearance to the 15 day DL. In the dark corners of the internet, there are those convinced the Pirates believe Kang will be charged with sexual assault from his July incident in Chicago and the belief prompted the Monday signing of infielder David Freese to a two-year contract.
None of those accounts have come from within the Pirates organization. While that scenario may play out, there is no evidence it impacted the Pirates thinking regarding Freese.
By signing a two-year contract, Freese becomes the de facto first baseman in 2017.
The far more likely, but as of yet not discussed reality is that McCutchen realizes the cost-conscious Pittsburgh Pirates will trade him this off-season amid a flurry of thank-yous and tribute. The 29-year-old outfielder will be cast off. His loyalty appreciated but unrequited, used for starting pitcher or pile of prospects.
Recall some public pressure and discussion over the winter for a new deal for McCutchen. The center fielder has one year and one team option remaining on his contract. The sums are closer to market value; $14 million and $14.5 million.
The Pirates recently included two of their top 10 prospects in the deal which sent starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, who was making a healthy $13 million, to Toronto for a struggling Triple-A pitcher.
It’s far too early to discuss the fallout from a speculative move which hasn’t happened yet. After this season, or during next season, the McCutchen era will likely end and if it does the Pirates will be seen negatively for using a player’s commitment against him.
There is an even bigger fallout possible; players not trusting the organization, the likes of which we recently witnessed…for 20 years.