I titled this year's thread Sending A Message because how the front office handles the McCutchen contract situation is going to send a message to the fans, the current prospects in the organization and any potential future free agents. Try and lowball Cutch and every decent prospect in the organization will know that the objective is to get to the bigs quickly, put in your 6 years and get the hell out of town in a hurry. This will show how serious and honest Nutting was when he said that he will pay for the right players when the time comes that the Bucs can contend.
That being said; here's a look at the 2012 Bucs.
RP's-Meek, Resop, Grilli, Watson, someone, Correia or Karstens loser
Bench- McKenry, Jones or McGehee, McLouth, back up middle infielder
I can't see this team being anything close to a contender, even in a watered-down NL Central, but, if everything works out well, I can see the streak end at 19 years and the Pirates barely get their nose above .500. I'll say 82-80 on the good end (approximately 3rd place) and 75-87 on the low end (maybe 4th or 5th). I can't see us falling below the Lastros.
This team will have some decent speed, but not great OBP at the top of the order(Presley,Tabata,Cutch) some questionable pop in the middle(Jones/McGehee,Walker, Alvarez) and improved defense but decreased offense from the bottom 2 (Barmes & Barajas). The rotation is anchored by 2 reclamation projects in Burnett and Bedard, and 3 pitch-to-contact guys in Morton,McDonald and Correia. If anyone from the rotation goes down or doesn't perform, the pickings get slim at the high levels of the minors. I can see the Bucs pushing Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon through the system quickly, both probably arriving by the end of 2013 at the latest. The bats will take longer to arrive with Josh Bell in late 2014 at best. We can hope to see Marte and maybe Sanchez by the end of this year and Dickerson in early 2014.
Huntington, Coonelly and nutting have their 1st and best chance to set the tone for the next few years of this franchise and pony up the money for Cutch. To underpay him and piss him off will put a fork in this team's future if they don't match Upton and Bruce like Cutch wants.