All of Pittsburgh held its breath on Sunday afternoon when Andrew McCutchen, the reigning National League MVP, went into the dugout limping and holding his back. And the city’s fears were realized Monday afternoon when it was learned the star of the Pittsburgh Pirates would be heading to the DL and be sidelined for a month with a serious oblique injury. But even though this is crushing news for the Pirates, the team can still compete without their starting center fielder.
The Pirates are going to lose one of the best bats in all of baseball for the next month, but there is not a single bat or player who wins games. It is a team effort, and despite losing McCutchen, the team is still solid. The other players are just going to have to step up. Guys like Ike Davis, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez are going to have to improve their play and pick up their fallen teammate. And McCutchen’s replacement on the team is going to have to step up his play as well.
This is possible because players like Davis and Alvarez typically have had strong second halves in their careers. Players like Walker who have not been good second-half players will have a chip on their shoulder, and young guys like Gregory Polanco will want to show why they belong in the show. All of this in a collaborative effort can overcome the loss of McCutchen.
The Pirates can also add a player who can help replace McCutchen’s output. They have outfielders on the farm like Jose Tabata and Mel Rojas Jr. who could come up and hit at the top of the order. They could also call up infielders like Matt Hague and Brent Morel to replace Josh Harrison at third base so he can go into the outfield. Other players will be coming off of the DL as well, such as Starling Marte and Clint Barmes.
Trading for a replacement isn’t out of the question either. There are plenty of options that could end up on waivers in the coming month. The names like Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios will most likely claimed by the Pirates if they get the opportunity. Rios is especially intriguing, because the Texas Rangers are not looking for a top prospect for him and the Pirates could eat his salary for the rest of the season.
These are all things that can happen for the Pirates in the coming month without McCutchen. Players can step up, be called up and even traded for to replace his production. The only question is if these things will actually happen for the Pirates. It is never a good thing when your star player goes down, but in the case of the Pirates, the team and the fans should not fear the absolute worst. This team is still capable of competing without McCutchen batting third in the lineup.