Perotto: Talent assessors are debating whether Andrew McCutcheon can still play

Many people make fun of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and rightfully so. Hackers certainly open themselves up to a lot of ridicule in the way they run their operations.

So, it’s easy for cynics to wonder if the Buccaneers decided to bring outfielder Andrew McCutcheon back to the organization as a publicity stunt five years after they traded him to the San Francisco Giants.

To some extent, the answer is yes.

The Buccaneers used up all the goodwill they built with the fans from 2013 to 2015 when they captured three straight National League pitches. Their most loyal fans have run out of patience, with a 142-242 compilation over the past three seasons.

So bringing back the infamous McCutcheon is one way the Buccaneers can calm fans they’ve upset and win back the losers.

It is also a business decision.

And the Buccaneers drew just 1,257,458 fans last season. It was their lowest annual average attendance in a season that hasn’t been affected by a pandemic or shutdown since 1987. The Pirates need to sell tickets and McCutcheon’s return should help.

However, the overarching question about the Pirates signing McCutcheon is whether he can help make them respectable.

The 36-year-old hit .237/.316/.384 for the Milwaukee Brewers in 134 games last season with 17 home runs and eight stolen bases. Although McCutcheon made 81 of his 130 starts as the designated hitter, he contributed four defensive runs saved to the outfield.

Using baseball reference calculations, McCutcheon was worth 1.1 wins above replacement (WAR). His 99 PPS+ meant he was 1% below the major league average offensively.

However, numbers don’t always tell the full story of a player. It’s also helpful to talk to the pros, those who get paid to rate players on major league teams.

We spoke to three of these residents. They were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the players.

Here’s what the three had to say about McCutcheon:

Resident #1: “The first thing I would say is I hope the fans in Pittsburgh understand that they don’t get the same player who was a star when he played there before. He’s 36 now and he’s slipped up since those days. I’m sure (General Manager) Ben Sherrington and the guys Baseball in Pittsburgh they know that.” Still, he could help the Pirates or any other team. He hits the ball hard. He doesn’t have as much power as he used to but he’s still tough and still has good bat speed. He still runs well enough and has enough range on the field to be an asset. He’s not going to come and win a banner alone, but he can help. It’s a solid move, especially for one year and $5 million.”

Resident #2: “I understand the temptation to come back to Pittsburgh and get a chance to see him off, but I question his competitiveness for wanting to walk through this mess. He can still play a little bit. I don’t know if he’ll make a big impact on this team. For me, he’s a good fourth player on the team.” The contender at this point. Nice homecoming story and all that, but I wonder what it would be like if it was mid-July and they’re 20 games in first place? Would he be happy with that?”

Resident #3: “He still has his uses but I’m not sure PNC Park is the right place for him. It’s not a good power park for right-handed hitters and he’s really become a draft guy as he’s gotten older. The field is big too, he’s had some knee surgery. They’ll almost have to Putting him in right field because the left quarterback has a lot of ground to cover. I think he’ll help off the field, though. Those kids on this team need some direction. That was obvious last year. McCutcheon is a pro. That might be where he ends up serving The greatest value for pirates.”

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