BRADENTON, Fla. -- As Pirates players filed into their McKechnie Field clubhouse for Monday afternoon's workout prior to the night game in Sarasota, they took turns congratulating Andrew McCutchen.Then they figuratively congratulated themselves and Pirates fans for the new six-year, $51.5 million contract that could keep McCutchen in PNC Park's center field through 2018. The deal, confirmed by independent sources, has not been announced by the Pirates, who declined comment. It will become official following McCutchen's physical, and the club could hold a media conference as early as Tuesday morning.
"It's definitely a positive," said Nate McLouth. "It's good for him personally, and it's good for fans of the team to know their best player will be around for a long time.""We all knew they were talking, and it's good to see it happen," said pitcher Charlie Morton. "It's one less thing to worry about." McCutchen accepted the handshakes all around but could not address the agreement until it becomes official. However, he was smiling, understandable since he was having a very good day: The 25-year-old core player earned more in one day (the $1.25 million signing bonus) than he'd been scheduled to earn all year (the $500,000 contract previously agreed to for 2012). According to a baseball source, the remainder of McCutchen's contract calls for $4.5 million in 2013, $7.25 million in 2014, $10 million in 2015, $13 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017. There is a 2018 option for $14.75 million, with a buyout of $1 million. "I'm happy for Andrew," said second baseman Neil Walker. "He deserves it, and Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have a player of his caliber for as long as they now have him." Walker's representatives and the club have discussed a long-term deal, as did McCutchen extensively prior to striking his own. McCutchen's agreement logically sparked speculation whether Walker is next on that list, especially if the Pirates are embarking on a new agenda. "I can't really answer those questions," Walker said. "But I can tell you that we have talked in the past, and I will say I want to be a Pittsburgh Pirate for a very, very long time. Where it goes from there ... We'll have to see." An overall young, fresh team does not include many players who have been around long enough to be able to appreciate the leaf-turning represented by the signing of McCutchen, and by the signing last August of right fielder Jose Tabata to a contract of the same length. But the team's fans can, fans who through the years have had to mourn the departures of Jason Bay, Jose Bautista, Aramis Ramirez and other talents developed by the organization. Players such as McLouth, who is back with the club two and a half years after having been one of those economic-reality victims when he was dealt to Atlanta. "Well, yeah, as I said, this is good for the fans. One less thing for them to worry about," McLouth said. "It's good for the team. They know what they will be paying for a specified time. And Andrew knows he's financially secure." "He's obviously one of the best outfielders in the game," Morton said of McCutchen. "So any team would be happy to have him. It's just a good feeling that it got done." Followers of the sport in general and of the Pirates in particular, as well as baseball insiders, have been unanimous is applauding the agreement as proof of a front office committed to restoring the dignity of a team that has been dragged through 19 straight losing seasons. They would get no argument from the players in that team's uniforms. "It's a very fair deal for both the player and the team," Walker said. "Andrew is a very high-caliber player, and I think he's going to continue to be every bit as good as he has been in his first three years." Since making his Major League debut on June 4, 2009, McCutchen has hit .276 with 51 home runs and 199 RBIs in 420 games, and he was a first-time All-Star last season. His contract was negotiated in the shadow of other six-year contracts recently signed by comparable players. Justin Upton had a .272 average with 43 homers and 139 RBIs in 289 games when he signed his six-year, $51.25 million deal with the D-backs in March 2010. Cincinnati's Jay Bruce had hit .257 with 68 homers and 180 RBIs in 357 games at the time he inked his six-year, $51 million deal in December 2010. Both McCutchen and the Pirates can feel good about the deal. Pittsburgh fans can feel the best.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.