Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cutch-22's potential long-term contract


No, Andrew McCutchen did not sign a long-term contract or has even been offered one by the Pirates. But fast-forward to the All-Star Break this year....the Pirates have called up Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln, and possibly Jose Tabata. Combined with Cutch-22 and some complementary pieces like Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge, you can squint and see a respectable team forming on the horizon.

By the All-Star break 2010, Cutch-22 will have just over a full year in the majors. If he has avoided the sophomore slump, I would like to see the Pirates present him with a long-term contract to keep in the black and gold, patrolling CF of PNC Park, for a long time.

The contract that I would use as a template is Grady Sizemore's current deal, signed after he had 1 year and 1 month in the majors as well. It was signed in March of 2006 (he was called up late in 2004). The amounts for Sizemore were/are:
2006 (his 2nd pre-arb year) $500,000
2007 (his 3rd pre-arb year) $750,000
2008 (his 1st arb year) $3,000,000
2009 (his 2nd arb year) $4,600,000
2010 (his 3rd arb year) $5,600,000
2011 (his 1st FA year) $7,500,000
2012 (his 2nd FA year) $8,500,000 club option

Taking out his cup of coffee in 2004, Sizemore has been worth 27.2 Wins Above Replacement over his first 5 years, which even accounts for his injury-plagued 2009 campaign. He is averaging 5.4 WAR/year, which is worth $24.3M/year on the free agent market. Let's all agree that he has been a steal for the Indians.

Here's the strange part...take a look at Sizemore's 2005, his first full season
.289/.348/.484 (832 OPS) with 22 HR, 37 2B, 11 3B and 22 Steals

Here's Andrew's 2009, exactly 2/3 of a season...
.286/.365/.471 (836 OPS) with 12 HR, 26 2B, 9 3B and 22 Steals
It's not hard to increase those numbers by 50% and see that their two seasons were nearly identical.

Now, Sizemore has a touch more HR power than Cutch-22 may ever have, but they are in the same discussion in terms of type of player and ceiling.

Why is this contract good for Andrew McCutchen?
1. It provides long-term guaranteed financial security. That money is his no matter if he suffers a career-ending injury the day after signing it, has a horrible slump and never reaches the heights of his rookie season or his potential, or any other unforeseen circumstance.

2. It gives him a shade more money in his first 3 years of the contract that he would make going year to year. Yes, it's minor change, but I imagine in a clubhouse the pecking order is how much money you make.

3. It shows him that the Pirates want him to be a cornerstone. No, don't compare this to McLouth. I think we can all agree that a 23 year old Andrew has a little more long-term promise than 27 year old Nate.

Why is this contract good for the Pirates?
1. It gives them cost certainty on one of their potential superstars. Assume that Cutch-22 is a consistent 4 WAR player. His FA worth would be $18M/year (think Torii Hunter). Using the 20%/40%/60% of arbitration, you could be looking at $3.6M, $7.2M, and $10.8M in arb potentially going year to year. This potential contract saved them huge money in the last 2 arb years and buys out 2 FA years.
As a reference, BJ Upton is asking for $3.3M in arb with the Rays. Hunter Pence signed for $3.5M with the Astros after asking for $4.1M.

2. It shows the public that they are serious about locking up the core. The Pirates before moving into PNC signed Kendall and Giles to multi-year deals and got a huge bump in public support. The Pirates, with a much more jaded public, got a mini-bump of support when they recently signed Maholm, Doumit, and McLouth to multi-year deals. But this would trump them all. The Pirates will sink or swim with Cutch-22 and Alvarez.

3. It sends a message to the league. The Pirates are serious about winning and not just growing players for the bigger teams to poach. It could have a small effect on future free agent dealings.

In the past, I have advocated for a max length of 5 years for a position player contract. I'm going to break my own rule for this one. Cutch-22 is a special player and is the first player in my post-college life (read: adult life) that I want to see start and finish his career as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

No comments:

Post a Comment