It's really been a lousy few days for the Pirates. Their offer for David Price was turned down by the Rays at the trade deadline and now comes the news that star Andrew McCutchen could miss a month. How does that affect Pittsburgh's MLB futures odds?
First-Ever Trip To Disabled List
I wouldn't say Andrew McCutchen is the best all-around player in baseball -- probably that honor belongs to the Angels' Mike Trout -- but I would say that McCutchen is the most valuable player to his team. And it's not close. Thus his loss is nothing short of devastating to Pittsburgh's playoff hopes and seriously jumbles the NL MVP race.
McCutchen was the 2013 National League MVP in leading the Pirates to their first postseason and winning record since 1992. He led the offensively challenged team in average (.317), on-base percentage (.404), slugging percentage (.508) and was second in home runs (21), RBIs (84) and stolen bases (27). He probably should have won a second straight Gold Glove Award as well. This year, McCutchen was on pace to put up similar numbers as he leads the team in average (.311), homers (17), RBIs (67) and just about every offensive category that matters. He also leads the NL with 68 walks. Since June 1, he is No. 1 in the NL in average, slugging percentage and RBIs.
McCutchen was injured in Sunday's loss to Arizona when he hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. McCutchen could be seen grabbing his left side as he jogged to first, and he actually needed help just descending the dugout steps. The reports out of Pittsburgh are that it's a serious oblique muscle injury and that he will miss three weeks to a month. It was a painful weekend for McCutchen as he was beaned in the back Saturday. The Pirates entered this week 1.5 games out of the NL Central lead and a half game out of the final wild-card spot.
This isn't a stellar offensive group even with McCutchen in there, to say nothing of what he does on the basepaths or defensively in center field. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is struggling with a .234 average, just 15 homers (after 36 in 2013) and 96 strikeouts. Left fielder Starling Marte can't seem to stay healthy. He's currently on the seven-day concussion list but is expected to be activated and play in Tuesday's night's game against the Marlins. Marte figures to slide over to center.
Pirates Playoff Hopes Doomed?
Pittsburgh is currently +275 to win the NL Central, with St. Louis -125 at sportsbooks and Milwaukee at +175. I don't think there's much doubt that the Cardinals take the division after acquiring Justin Masterson and John Lackey in trades last week. Both won their St. Louis debuts, although Masterson didn't look great. The Pirates could still make a trade via a waiver claim, but the only guys who are put on waivers are generally the overpaid, underperforming types. The Pirates aren't exactly known for spending a ton of money.
On the bright side, the Pirates begin an eight-game homestand Tuesday against the Marlins. The Padres follow Miami to town. Those are two winnable series even without McCutchen. After that the schedule gets much harder: two at home vs. Detroit, two at the Tigers, three at the Nationals, three vs. the Braves, three at the Brewers, three vs. the Cardinals and three vs. the Reds to close out August. Pittsburgh could be doomed by then.
As for the NL MVP race, McCutchen was the +150 favorite in the most recent posting of those MLB odds at sportsbooks. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was the +200 second-favorite, but he has been out since July 19 and probably won't be back until mid-August. So perhaps Miami's Giancarlo Stanton (+700) can steal the award now. Another candidate, Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, was lost for the season when he was hit in the hand Friday by the Pirates (the McCutchen HBP was payback for that). It's a very wide-open MVP race unlike in the AL, where Trout is the huge betting favorite.
MLB Free Picks: The Pirates miss the playoffs -- Brewers and Giants are the wild cards -- and Stanton steals the NL MVP by leading the Senior Circuit in both home runs and RBIs.