Andrew McCutchen has long felt a kinship with the fellow first-rounders of the famed 2005 draft class.
Anytime the Pirates centerfielder sees a highlight of one of his cohorts — an illustrious group that includes Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman and Troy Tulowitzki, among many others — he blurts out, “Oh-five draft class, don’t forget.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Andrew McCutchen said. “We’ve got some studs drafted in that class. I let people know.”
There’s now another important commonality McCutchen shares with each of those aforementioned stars: They have all agreed to long-term contract extensions with their original clubs, becoming cornerstones around which those franchises can build.
This week McCutchen agreed to a six-year, $51.5 million contract — with an option for a seventh year that would cover 2018 — that includes this season (his final one before arbitration eligibility), his three years of arbitration and at least his first two free-agent years.
“It’s almost like I feel married and you renew your vows,” McCutchen said Tuesday. “I always wanted to be here.”
McCutchen is one of the game’s burgeoning stars. He made his first All-Star team last season while receiving the majority of his at bats as Pittsburgh’s No. 3 hitter for the first time.
In 2009 and ’10, he had batted an identical .286 with a .365 on-base percentage in each of his first two seasons with 12 and then 16 home runs and 22 and then 33 stolen bases; last year his average dipped to .259 but his OBP remained at .364 while he increased his power output to 23 homers and still stole 23 bases. A speedster with great range, McCutchen has also improved his defense each season.
Just 25 years old, McCutchen has a lot of room to grow, too.
Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said the club was willing to make this commitment “because of the person Andrew is, the player Andrew is and the player we believe that he is going to become.”
McCutchen’s signing with the Pirates is particularly significant for the organization as it tries to snap a 19-year streak of losing seasons and return to the playoffs for the first time since Andy Van Slyke and Barry Bonds filled the middle of the lineup. Last year the club exceeded 70 wins for the first time since 2004 and was in first place in the NL Central as late as July 25.