Pirates pitchers and catchers started reporting to Spring Training today, but Pittsburgh may not be done with their offseason maneuvering, according to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel, who says that the Pirates are still willing to trade former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen or second baseman Josh Harrison.
To be clear, there is nothing in the works at the moment, but circumstances can change quickly as players get hurt in the first days of camp. Still, it’s a long shot.
McCutchen is switching over to right field this year after a disappointing 2016 on both sides of the ball. He hit just .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers while providing what the numbers say was the worst center field defense in all of baseball. Presumably, shifting to right field will allow his declining range to be less of a problem, but it also increases the offensive threshold at which he’s useful. He also, in the final year of his contract and with a $14 million salary, eats up a large percentage of Pittsburgh’s bottom line. If they find a taker, Pittsburgh will be able to move a no-doubt top 10 prospect in Austin Meadows into the starting lineup.
After an All Star campaign in 2014 that netted him a big contract extension, Harrison has come back to earth and settled in as a good defensive second baseman who simply does not possess the power or the on base skills to be an asset. He hit just .283/.311/.388 last year with 19 stolen bases in 23 tries and only four homeruns. At $19 million over the next two years (once you account for the buyout in his contract, you would be hard pressed to find any takers for Harrison as a starter, especially given how strong the position is in the Majors right now. He could be a fit in as a utility player somewhere, but the Pirates would have to eat a large percentage of what he’s owed. If the Pirates manage to pull off a deal, presumably Jung-ho Kang would slide back over to second base while David Freese handles third regularly.
But the smart money is for both McCutchen and Harrison to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day, though McCutchen is a good bet to be traded in July if the Pirates aren’t in the hunt for the Wild Card.