On Monday, Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen repeated his desire to finish his career in Pittsburgh. A day later, the Pirates' general manager said the team plans to talk contract with him at "the appropriate time."
On one hand, GM Neal Huntington said, the Pirates would "love nothing more than to have Andrew McCutchen stay in Pittsburgh an awfully long time."
On the other hand, McCutchen, 29, is under team control for three more seasons. And "three years is an awfully long time," Huntington said.
"At the same time, we do want to honor his interest," Huntington told ESPN on Tuesday. "And at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way, we will look to see if there is a common financial ground that allows us to build a championship team around a given player. And that is always the challenge.
"Any team can basically afford any player. It's just how do you afford championship-caliber players around that one player. And that's where small-market teams, with the lower revenues and, as a result, the lower payrolls, it becomes very challenging to put a huge portion of your payroll in one player for an extended period of time. There's no question that's a challenge.
"So the bottom line comes back to: Will there be an appropriate point in time where we look again to see if we can find that common financial ground, something that makes sense for him, something that makes sense for us, and we believe we're still able to build a championship club around that player, given what we project our payroll and our revenues to be? There's a lot that goes into the equation, a lot more than simply saying we'd love him to stay and him saying he'd love to say. There's a lot that goes into that answer in reality."
On Monday, McCutchen was asked whether he wants to finish his career in Pittsburgh and replied: "I think you know that answer. I don't need to answer that, really. But everyone knows I want to be here. So that's nothing new to anyone."
A five-time All-Star, McCutchen is four years into a six-year, $51.5 million contract he signed in March 2012, as he was approaching his first season of arbitration eligibility. He is scheduled to make $13 million this season and $14 million in 2017. The Pirates then hold a club option, at $14.5 million, for 2018. So unless the club tears up that deal as part of an extension, he won't rank among the top 20 highest-paid outfielders in any of the next three seasons.
However, McCutchen has said repeatedly that "money doesn't define me." He repeated those sentiments Monday, but when asked if that meant he would take a significant discount to stay in Pittsburgh, he chose his words carefully.
"I don't know what my market value is," McCutchen said. "I haven't discussed that with my agent. So I still stick with the [idea that] money doesn't define me, because it doesn't. But it's not altered like that in this game. No one plays for free. People rarely ever work for free. But you know, whenever that time comes, that time comes. But I'm trying not to think about it too much."
There has been speculation by executives of other clubs that the Pirates are likely to explore a potential extension with McCutchen sooner rather than later, because if they conclude that they can't afford to sign him, they then would have to decide whether it makes sense to trade him when they can get the maximum return. However, Huntington declined to discuss when that "appropriate time" to talk contract might arrive.
"In a perfect world, when that appropriate time comes and we're able to reach that common financial ground, we'll shock the world with an announcement," he said. "Outside of that appropriate time, it's not something we will spend a lot of time on publicly."