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Originally published Monday, March 5, 2012 at 4:09 PM

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Pirates closing in on deal with CF McCutchen

The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent most of the last two decades grooming talented young players only to trade them away before they became too expensive to re-sign.

AP Sports Writer

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PITTSBURGH —

The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent most of the last two decades grooming talented young players only to trade them away before they became too expensive to re-sign.

They weren't going to make the same mistake with All-Star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen.

The Pirates and McCutchen are closing in on a new contract that will keep the promising 25-year-old with the team through the 2017 season, with a club option for 2018.

The details are still being ironed out and McCutchen must pass a routine physical before it becomes official. A formal announcement is expected on Tuesday. The deal was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

General manager Neal Huntington declined comment and McCutchen did not play in Monday's spring training game against the Orioles. Steve Hammond, McCutchen's agent, credited both sides for making sure McCutchen will continue to be the cornerstone of Pittsburgh's rebuilding process.

"We were working hard at this," Hammond said. "It was something Pittsburgh wanted and Andrew wanted. We found common ground."

McCutchen hit .259 in 2011 and posted career highs in home runs (23) and RBIs (89) while adding 23 stolen bases and making his first All-Star Game. Floating between leadoff and third in the lineup, McCutchen helped keep the Pirates in contention in the NL Central until late July.

Though Pittsburgh signed outfielder Jose Tabata to a long-term deal last summer, McCutchen and the Pirates appeared to be far apart on what a new contract would look like. Hammond said McCutchen wanted to wait until he played at least two full seasons before getting serious about an extension.

"There was some risk in that," Hammond said. "We were willing to take that on and we did."

McCutchen's new deal is similar to the contract Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce and Arizona outfielder Justin Upton agreed to at similar points in their respective careers. Both players had two-plus seasons in the majors at the time the deals were signed. Once McCutchen reached that level of service following the 2011 season, he felt he had the right framework in which to make a deal.

"It was a better opportunity to look at those players and compare ourselves to them," Hammond said. "It worked out."

McCutchen's speed has made him one of baseball's best defensive centerfielders and his charismatic smile and trademark dreadlocks have made him one of Pittsburgh's most popular players.

The Pirates drafted McCutchen with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft. He made his major league debut in 2009 and is a career .276 hitter. He is hitless in three plate appearances so far this spring.

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