Who does McCutchen’s deal set the market for?

We talked about Andrew McCutchen’s six year contract late last night, and now…we’re going to talk about it even more! McCutchen is one of the top center fielders in baseball, and there are two other top center fielders reaching the market this offseason: Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Michael Bourn of the Braves. But the thing about those two that may make them a bad comparison to McCutchen is that both are substantially older. Victorino will be 32 at the end of November, while Bourn turns 30 at the end of December. McCutchen will turn 26 once the season concludes. Both players, especially Bourn, make good use of their speed on the bases. Both also have less power than McCutchen. So I’m not sure either player is a good comparison for the Pirates’ star.

Because of McCutchen’s multiple talents, you need to look at this from a standpoint of locking up a young, multi-talented, potential franchise player. McCutchen’s extension was clearly modeled after Justin Upton (six years, $51.25 million, signed at age 22) and Jay Bruce (six years, $51 million, signed at age 23). McCutchen’s deal, in case you missed it, is six years, $51.5 million, and was signed at age 25. So he gets nearly the identical amount of money as the other two players, but signed it at an older age, which will result in him reaching free agency while older than the other two players and having less of a chance to cash in on another big payday.

The most obvious example of a possible extension is Jason Heyward of the Braves, but I’m sure the Braves would like to see him turn in a solid 2012 season before committing $50 million to him. Heyward will be eligible for arbitration before the 2013 season, and if he has a year like he did in 2010, the Braves would be wise to attempt to buy out his arbitration years. Heyward is a five tool player who was worth over five wins as a 20 year-old. He had a bit of a sophomore slump last year, but dealt with injuries that resulted in a change in approach at the plate. If he’s worth five wins again in 2012, the Braves should absolutely try to give their superstar a deal similar to those discussed in this post.

One player that would have been eligible for a deal like this, and actually received one this weekend, was Cameron Maybin of the Padres. Maybin got five years and $25 million with a club option for a sixth year that could lock him up until 2017, when he’ll be 30. Maybin has fantastic speed and is a great defensive player in spacious Petco Park. Unfortunately, his overall offensive numbers are destroyed by his home park. On the road, Maybin has an .806 OPS (compared to just .618 at home), and it’s a shame that the prevailing viewpoint among casual fans is skewed by his bad numbers in a great pitchers park.

Two more quick candidates for long-term deals that resemble McCutchen’s: 28 year-old Alex Gordon of the Royals, who had an .878 OPS last season and has one season of arbitration remaining. If he has another year like he did in 2011, general manager Dayton Moore would probably look to lock him up, much like he did for catcher Salvador Perez last week. Another player is Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, who will be a free agent after 2013 (much lke Gordon). Ellsbury was worth an eye-popping 9.4 fWAR last season, but missed most of the 2010 season with injuries. If he’s able to somewhat replicate that season in 2012, the Red Sox will likely give him a long-term deal, something they haven’t been hesitant to do in recent years.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Managing editor of Awful Announcing. News editor of The Comeback. Managing editor of The Outside Corner. You guessed it - not actually Frank Stallone.

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