Nate McLouth, foreground, and Andrew McCutchen work on their baserunning y.
PPeter Diana / Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen mugs for the camera during sliding drills at Pirate City Bradenton Florida
By Bill Brink and Michael Sanserino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates and star center fielder Andrew McCutchen agreed to terms on a six-year contract worth $51.5 million with a club option for 2018 worth $14.75 million, according to a source.
The contract will buy out McCutchen's remaining arbitration seasons and at least two years of free agency.
McCutchen, 25, is one of the best center fielders in the National League. He earned a spot on the NL All-Star team in 2011 and hit .259 with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs last season.
McCutchen joins Jose Tabata as the only Pirates player with a long-term contract. Tabata signed a six-year, $15 million contract with three club options in August.
McCutchen's contract status has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years as his performance improved. The Pirates discussed an extension early in 2011 but talks stalled as the season progressed.
"We said from the very beginning that we have a plan to build talent and then to retain and build on talent that are key pieces of the organization," team principal owner Bob Nutting told the media last week. "[General manager] Neal [Huntington] has a clear understanding of what those key pieces are."
The contract is comparable to those of Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, who signed a six-year, $51.25 million contract before the 2010 season, and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, who signed a six-year, $51 million contract before last season.
"When you enter a negotiation, you're at X, the player's at Z, and you work awfully hard to try to find Y," Huntington said at PirateFest in December when discussing a possible contract extension for McCutchen. "There has to be a shared risk on both sides."
The Pirates selected McCutchen 11th overall in the 2005 draft. Upton was the first overall pick in that draft, and Bruce was selected 12th.
McCutchen would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season. He has a career .276 average and .365 on-base percentage. He debuted with the Pirates in 2009.