On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates reached an agreement with Andrew McCutchen who is unquestionably the best player on the team. With a 6 year, $51.5 million extension, the Pirates not only locked up the 25 year old center fielder past two free agent years, but also gave hope to a city who has been victimized by cheapskate ownership and bad investments over the last 20 years.

While the amount of years is encouraging to Pirates fans, ensuring McCutchen will in Pittsburgh until he is 32 years old, the dollar figure suggests the Pirates are expecting improvement to what has already been a young, All-Star career.

Last season, McCutchen's batting average dropped from .286 to .259. However, his on-base percentage dropped only one point (due to more walks) and he was only one of a dozen players to record twenty home runs and twenty stolen bases.

But the Pirates want more and are expecting more out of Andrew McCutchen.

Justin Upton, who is projected to hit upwards of 40 home runs and steal 30 bases, was given a 6 year $51.25 million deal almost two years to the day before McCutchen. Upton has MVP potential for the Arizona Diamondbacks who are looking to lean on him as a centerpiece to the lineup. In a similar fashion, the Pirates see McCutchen as a #3 hitter who can contribute to a lineup that is sorely lacking power. While his numbers have been steady through the first three seasons in the majors, the Pirates are investing in the potential, not the current talent. That means a higher average, higher on-base percentage, and more power.

Could the deal have come at a better time? With the organization adding elite-level arms to the farm system, the Pirates now have the face of the franchise secured long enough to see at least one of the four potential aces reach Pittsburgh. If pitchers Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia and Stetson Allie all fall to the wayside -as Tony Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez are starting to show- then the Pirates have bigger problems. If the pitchers develop, the pieces may be in place for relevant baseball in October.

What an exciting time for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans. In 2007, when Neal Huntington and Bob Nutting preached "commitment to winning," everyone scoffed. The fan base had heard this before; "rebuilding," "3 year plan," "5 year plan." When the franchise signed Pedro Alvarez to a $6.4 million deal, excitement was existent but tempered. Then followed the tens of millions spent in the draft and international market to sign the likes of Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia and Robbie Grossman. Still, Pirates fans had two more questions: Can they keep the major league talent they have? Can they win?

One question has been answered by management. The other question needs to be answered by the players.

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