If you've followed the what-would-they-get series to this point, you've probably noticed a pattern.
Player X signed a $200 million contract last year. But it turns out he has lobster claws instead of human hands. How much would you pay for a player with lobster claws instead of hands?
As in, Player X used to be a shining star and he signed a big contract, but now he's sorta sketchy and not worth that much now, so what kind of contract would he get now? Those were the players who would be the subjects of the what-would-they-get series. Ryan Braun was an installment. So were Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. You get the idea.
This subject is a wee bit different. It's hard to explain him without seeming overly sentimental, fawning, or restraining ordery. He's baseball. Andrew McCutchen is baseball. Like, at the end of the after-school cartoon, when he builds a new ballpark for orphans using twigs and magic breath, right as he's leaving, someone says "Don't you realize who that was? That was Baseball, man. It was him." It would be the Miracle on 34th Street twist. And I'd watch the movie 78 times.
McCutchen looks like the baseball players I was too young to watch. Carl Yastrzemski was 5'11", 175 pounds. Willie Mays was listed at 5'10", 175. Hank Aaron was 6'0", 180. McCutchen is 5'10", 190. He's vintage without being old. He's a walking reminder that physics works in mysterious, explainable ways, and that baseball players don't have to look like Zangief to be excellent, well-rounded hitters. As a little feller myself, I appreciate that. I'd give him $300 million for that alone.
I don't have $300 million. But teams around baseball do, and they'd love to shovel it McCutchen's way. They would absolutely relish the chance to make him the highest-paid player in baseball. He's 27, and he's the reigning MVP. He would have been a free agent after this year if the Pirates didn't sign him to an extension before the 2012 season, too. As is, here's the contract he signed:
Six years, $51.5 million
2013: $4.5 million
2014: $7.25 million
2015: $10 million
2016: $13 million
2017: $14 million
2018: option for $14.75 million
That's Ricky Nolasco money. No hyperbole. For about the same money (for fewer years), you can have the real thing: Ricky Nolasco. But only if you really, really want him.
Now, don't weep for McCutchen just yet. He'll come out of this contract the same age as Jacoby Ellsbury is now, so he'll get that nine-figure deal, yet. And if the worst-case scenario happens, if McCutchen plays Grady Sizemore in a critically loathed off-Broadway play, he can still buy an Xbox One and Skittles in bulk. He's probably okay.
Let's take a moment to think about what McCutchen almost was, though. It's rare to see a premium free agent hit the market a few years before he's 30. Everyone gives the original A-Rod deal guff, but there's a reason it was so massive. Rodriguez wasn't much older than Mike Trout, but he was a Mike Trout that anyone could have. For money.
Turns out Rodriguez was totally worth it, before you factor in that he was enjoying better living through chemistry, at least. He got a $200 million contract, and he produced.
Now picture what McCutchen would get. He's 27, gregarious, and one of the most likable people in the sport. Also, a deserving MVP. He's not quite as young as A-Rod was, but he follows the same template. Player is called up young; player is unquestionably awesome; player gets to free agency at a really young age.
The $300 million figure referenced up there is mostly a joke. Mostly. People have opined that Mike Trout is heading in that direction. McCutchen probably wouldn't break that barrier. Except, think of the teams that would be involved.
The Rangers figured out they could take a financial risk on a player like Prince Fielder. Of course they would do the same for an amazing fit like McCutchen. The Yankees might not have held off on their spend-happy ways this offseason, but they might have considered it if McCutchen were available. The Astros might have been in pure screw-it mode, wildly pursing McCutchen to be the foundation of the young talent. Every team would have been going nuts 11 months from now.
The Dodgers. Oh, man.
Colletti: Do you like Cyprus?
McCutchen: The island?
Colletti: All yours. Beaches down low. Snow up top. Everything. And look at this./pulls cover off dioramaColletti: We've already transformed Cyprus into McCutchland®. It's done. Look at the aerial photos. We've displaced millions. Look at that roller coaster from Limassol to Kyrenia. Please sign with us.
The Pirates would have been well set to deal with a situation like this, though. They don't have any goofy long-term deals. Even though they play in a crazy-small market, there's still a chance they could have gone goofy to keep McCutchen. It's easy to pick the Dodgers or Yankees, but I think the Pirates would have made this an issue.
So that's what I'm going with. Pirates. Ten years, $240 million. And it would have made sense. It would have looked like a normal, premium deal for a homegrown deal. He wouldn't have been 50, like Pujols.
As is, the Pirates got the head start they deserve, a reasonably priced difference-maker for the next several years. He would cost a lot more now, you know. Maybe three times as much. He's like this generation's Ricky Nolasco.