All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen may be on the move at the MLB trade deadline if the Pittsburgh Pirates attempt to maximize his value.

Over the past two months, no hitter in Major League Baseball has been hotter than Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Over his past 44 games, the MVP and five-time All-Star has batted .395/.489/.694 with 12 doubles, a triple, 11 home runs, 31 RBI and 28 walks against 28 strikeouts. Once again, he looks like the player who won the NL MVP in 2013 and finished in the top-five of the vote four straight years from 2012 to 2015 while winning four Silver Sluggers.

McCutchen has spent his entire nine-year MLB career with the Pirates, and has never expressed a desire to leave. The front office shopped him aggressively at the Winter Meetings, nearly traded him on multiple occasions and then sprung a move out of center field on him right before the team’s annual Fan Fest. McCutchen gave the Pirates a hometown discount on his first contract — six years, $51.5 million with an option for a seventh year at $14.75 million — but will do no such thing after the 2018 season. Even at the age of 31, McCutchen will command a nine-figure deal, something the Pirates have never given out.

This year is the time for the Pirates to trade McCutchen to maximize his trade value. Trading a franchise icon and beloved figure in the Iron City is not going to be easy, but the Pirates front office seems to have their minds made up that re-signing him for the long haul is not going to be in the cards. Making a deal at the 2017 deadline is left as the only option. Getting back equal value for a potential Hall of Famer like McCutchen is never easy, but these five teams have the need and ability to offer the Pirates a fair package of prospects in return for their star.

5. Kansas City Royals

The thought that the Royals might actually be buyers at the trade deadline would have seemed unimaginable two months ago. If anything, Dayton Moore and the front office should have been hard at work collecting trade offers for Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas by now. Instead, the Royals have flipped the script and clawed their way back into the AL Central playoff picture.

It will be hard for the Royals to justify buying too aggressively at the trade deadline, but McCutchen does actually make sense for them at this critical juncture for the franchise. Alex Gordon and Brandon Moss have given them next to no production in left field and at DH, but Hosmer, Mousakas and starter Jason Vargas are having career years heading into free agency. The Royals cannot waste that if this really is their last chance to win with their 2015 World Series core.

McCutchen makes sense for the Royals in that he can still be traded again at the end of the 2017 season if this year does not end in a playoff run for the team. This might be a longshot, but the Royals front office has been able to find sneaky ways to get deals done since their rise in 2014.

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