In the end, loyalty was the deciding factor for Andrew McCutchen.
Some will see the numbers on his new six-year, $51.5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and say he followed the money.
McCutchen said he followed his heart.
It’s why the 25-year-old is now a long-term Pittsburgh Pirate and might be one for life.
You can say no one turns down that kind of money, but McCutchen could’ve taken a risk. He would’ve qualified for salary arbitration after this season and been a free agent in 2015.
“The team that drafts you is the team you want to be with. I was drafted by the Pirates and this is where I want to be. They believed in me from when I was out of high school (Fort Meade),” McCutchen said. “It didn’t take much convincing from them. I wanted to play here, and it turned out perfect that we were able to agree on both ends.”
This is better for the Pirates than it is for McCutchen. He didn’t demand outrageous money.
McCutchen could’ve done the LeBron James thing or what Dwight Howard is doing and just waited it out and got a richer payday that would’ve more than compensated him for his patience.
Who would blame him for going to a bigger-market team with a better track record for winning.
McCutchen would’ve won, but the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh would’ve lost. He doesn’t do things that way. He sees loyalty as a two-way street.
“This is good for the organization. It shows people we are moving in the right direction and doing things differently and things are changing for the better,” he said.
McCutchen hasn’t changed much since his childhood days. He still remembers idolizing Ken Griffey Jr. and being star struck when as a minor-leaguer he met Griffey.
If Pittsburgh wanted to keep its fan base from staging a full-scale uprising, it had to make this deal. The Pirates’ 11th overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft, McCutchen was an All-Star last year when he led the team in homers (23) and became only the eighth player in club history to get at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season.
It’s not a stretch to say someday McCutchen might complete the Pirates’ all-time outfield standing between Barry Bonds and Roberto Clemente.
A big contract means big expectations, especially at Pittsburgh, which isn’t known for opening its vault to keep players.
But he is not afraid. McCutchen’s demeanor won’t allow him to be overwhelmed.
“In the outer world, they will pin that on me, but every player has a responsibility to do his best,” McCutchen said. “We are in the big leagues and we are responsible for everything that we do. I believe in what I can do and if I continue to work hard, everything will take care of itself.”
McCutchen showed he is not a bad businessman. Despite his desire to stay, he turned down long-term contract offers from the Pirates twice in the last two years.
He showed his defensive skills are among the best in the game last year at the outfield’s most demanding position when he led all National League center fielders with 430 chances and 414 putouts.
For a franchise that has endured 19 straight losing seasons, McCutchen provides genuine hope. Playing the cash-laden New York Yankees on a day his contract was finalized was symbolic.
“We are not just focusing on ending the (losing) streak. We are focusing on winning a championship,” he said. “If we don’t believe it, then how can we ever do it? We have to have the expectations as high as we can, and that is what we are doing. This is a good place to play.”
Alan Dell, Herald columnist, can be reached 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.