Cutch better prepared for unknown future

Star CF focused on impending birth of first child, not potential trade

Cutch better prepared for unknown future

PITTSBURGH -- Personally, this offseason will be unlike any other Andrew McCutchen has experienced. He and his wife, Maria, are expecting their first child, a boy, in early December. No matter where he's playing come Opening Day, this winter is the start of a new chapter.

Professionally, he's been down this road before.

Within five days of the World Series' final out, the Pirates will either exercise or decline McCutchen's $14.5 million club option for next season. What will they do? In the likely event they pick up his option, what comes next?

McCutchen isn't even thinking about it.

"I'll give the same generic answer," McCutchen said on Oct. 1. "It's out of my control. That's honestly how I take it."

McCutchen learned to take it in stride last offseason. From the day he flew home after the 2016 season until the end of last December's Winter Meetings, he was surrounded by realistic trade rumors for the first time in his career. The rumblings finally subsided after the Meetings, when general manager Neal Huntington spoke with McCutchen and essentially committed to keeping him.

The Pirates listened to offers last year and, if they trigger McCutchen's option year, could seek to gauge his value on the trade market again. Next season would be McCutchen's final year under club control -- the end of the long-term contract he signed in 2012.

McCutchen tips his helmet

The Bucs have held on to several key contributors until they reached free agency -- A.J. Burnett in 2013 and Russell Martin in '14, to name two -- but they've also dealt others such as Neil Walker and Mark Melancon. None of them compare to McCutchen as the face of the franchise, however.

Huntington has said the Pirates "believe our best club in 2018 has Andrew in center field." But if the rumor mill churns out more trade speculation, McCutchen feels he's better prepared this time around.

"It makes it a little easier from the sense that it's expected. I guess I just didn't really expect it last offseason," he said. "This offseason, it's pretty expected."

Of course, the McCutchens are expecting something else that should take their minds off baseball and their eyes off their news feeds.

"I've got a kid coming. That'll be something that I'm probably more excited about than anything else," McCutchen said. "It's coming in early December. I know the Winter Meetings are around that time, too, so I'm probably not going to be paying attention to that, honestly.

"I'll have a little too much on my plate with a baby. I'm looking forward to that. It'll be a fun and interesting offseason, for sure."

At some point, McCutchen will find time to evaluate his bizarre, bounce-back year. In late May, he was batting .200. Then he went on a two-month tear in which he had a slash line of .370/.473/.685. He struggled through August and surged in late September, a stretch marked by a 4-for-4, eight-RBI game on Sept. 26 in which he hit his first career grand slam.

"Just take the positives, take the ups, take that into the offseason," McCutchen said. "Obviously you have the downs as well, but you learn from those. There's no point in taking them with you."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.