PITTSBURGH — Andrew McCutchen arrived with the Pirates as a 22-year-old center fielder with more than a decade of MLB seasons ahead of him. He helped the Pirates author the types of dominant regular seasons and postseason victories that the organization hadn’t seen in a couple of decades.

Now, at 37, McCutchen is in a different position. He’s only played three games in center field over the past four seasons and was used almost exclusively as a DH last season. The conversation has shifted from “Will he be one of the Pirates’ greats?” to “How much longer will we get to watch this franchise icon?”

Well, at least for one more season. The Pirates announced on Wednesday they signed McCutchen to a one-year contract, extending his return tour in Pittsburgh for another season. But don’t be fooled: There’s a big difference between a return tour and a farewell tour.

“I feel like I can play at least two more [years]. At least two more,” McCutchen said. “If that happens and next year rolls around, I make up in my mind that I’ll probably be done then, I’ll say that. I don’t know. I try to not put on too much pressure and try to go out and enjoy myself as much as I can, play as well as I can, because I do so much better when I’m just out there enjoying it.”

McCutchen understands he’s in a different situation than he was in his first stint in Pittsburgh. But there are still a striking number of similarities.

In his 2013 NL MVP season, when he hit .317 with a .911 OPS, McCutchen took nearly all of his at-bats out of the No. 3 spot in the order. In ‘23, all but six of his 390 at-bats in 2023 came in the top three spots in the batting order, including 263 in the coveted No. 3 spot, thanks to his ability to get on base at a high clip.

In fact, McCutchen’s .378 on-base percentage last season is only one point lower (.379) than his on-base percentage between 2009-17 in his formative years with the Pirates.

“Let’s be honest: Where I am and the state of baseball, too, having a 37-year-old middle-of-the-order bat is unheard of, really,” McCutchen said. “To be at a place and in a position where [GM Ben Cherington] feels that [works] … it speaks volumes.”

And Cherington said McCutchen will have every opportunity this spring to earn reps in the outfield he roamed for so many years at PNC Park.

“We don’t want to put any limitations on it right now. If it makes sense for him and the team to play some outfield next year, we certainly want to keep that possibility open,” Cherington said. “There’s probably some benefit to the team if that can happen.”

“I do think I can still help out there and I plan to continue to help out there,” McCutchen said. “If we can keep Bryan Reynolds fresh and off his feet, and I can be the guy to step in and get him off of his feet and keep his bat in the lineup, then that’s what I want to do.”

But McCutchen is also in a similar situation to his early years in another sense. The drought might not be as long as when he first arrived, but the Pirates are hoping they are nearing a window of postseason contention for the first time since 2018.

The Pirates added Marco Gonzales and will soon add Martín Pérez to their starting rotation to complement 2023 All-Star starter Mitch Keller, and it sounds like Cherington isn’t done looking for help there. The bullpen has one of the best closers in the game in David Bednar as well as young breakout setup pitchers in Colin Holderman and Carmen Mlodzinski.

The offense figures to be boosted by the additions of Rowdy Tellez and Edward Olivares. And McCutchen, the key piece of the Bucs’ lone playoff window thus far in the 2000s, believes that the lineup has had enough “seasoning” at the Major League level.

Now, it’s time to prove itself. No excuses.

“I feel like the Pirates have been under this window of development and rebuild. … I think we’re in a place now where that’s out the window,” McCutchen said. “There are changes and things that need to be done. We need to be in a place where we can win. Development and rebuild’s out of the window now.”

The time is now for McCutchen. He’s made it clear that he wouldn’t rather have this opportunity anywhere other than Pittsburgh, the city where he became a face of baseball in a sports-crazed region. He’ll have at least one more year to make it happen — if not two, or more.

“I feel like this is my final stop,” McCutchen said. “I don’t want to go anywhere else.”



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