Cutch likely to be with Bucs on Opening Day

Multiple potential trade partners no longer need top center fielder

December 8th, 2016

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Winter Meetings officially ended Thursday morning with the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, and was still a Pirate.

Although the first two days of the meetings were dominated by trade rumors about McCutchen, it's looking increasingly likely that he remains with Pittsburgh come Opening Day. The Bucs have been listening to offers for McCutchen -- not actively shopping him -- throughout the offseason, but they were not able to find a club this week that would meet the high asking price for their franchise player.

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"Our intent coming in here was to have Andrew McCutchen in our lineup going forward. No one changed that," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "It's unlikely that someone changes that going forward. We're not going to close the door, but we're not going to be making calls."

Huntington didn't rule out the possibility of a trade later this offseason. They discussed McCutchen with several teams this week at the Gaylord National Resort, most notably the Nationals. They were said to be seeking a young, controllable starting pitcher and at least one other top prospect in a potential package return for McCutchen, one of several Pirates considered to be available as they near the end of their contracts.

"The ask was significant to be willing to engage on a handful of our players. We expected Andrew to be a Pirate," Huntington said. "We feel great about Andrew being a Pirate. He's done remarkable things for this organization. We look forward to him being in our lineup next year and continuing on as a Pirate."

The odds of McCutchen being dealt were significantly diminished when the Nationals acquired and the Rangers signed , quickly erasing two potential landing spots.

"I think the most important element of it is what we were looking for. That's what drove the process," Huntington said. "As we talked openly as early as the GM Meetings [in November], it created calls. We took calls. We listened. We engaged -- not just on Andrew, but on other players that are on one- or two-year contracts.

"As we will always do, if we find the right move and we believe the right move is to move the player, then we'll move the player. If we believe the right move is to hold the player, then we'll hold the player. In this instance, obviously we felt the right move was to hold the player and continue to have him help us win a lot of games at the Major League level."

It appears that is still the plan with McCutchen, who is under contract for $14 million next season with a $14.75 million club option for 2018. Now, the interesting question is where he'll play; manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday the Bucs talked with McCutchen about the possibility of moving out of center field and into an outfield corner.

The Pirates still could trade McCutchen, although there is no obvious match with another club, but their actions this week backed up their consistent internal stance: They don't have to trade him, and they won't do it for anything less than the perfect offer.

"Things are always ongoing. We'll always look for the right opportunity for the right reasons for the organization," Huntington said. "It's safe to anticipate that if something were to happen, it would have probably happened earlier in the offseason with any of our bigger-name guys."