Three-time All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen has become the new face of small market baseball, and he doesn't think being on a team with one of the lowest payrolls in the Major Leagues is holding him or his team back.
"Payroll doesn't mean everything. If that was the case, the Yankees would win every year," McCutchen told CNBC.
The 27-year-old outfielder, who was named 2013 National League Most Valuable Player, led the Pirates last season to their first winning season and playoff berth in 21 years.
"It's about finding the right guys—not necessarily the most expensive," said McCutchen.
The Pirates' payroll for the start of the 2014 season ranked 27th out of 30 teams, according to Forbes. The Pirates spent just $78 million, compared with the top payroll teams like the Dodgers and Yankees, which spent almost triple that amount.
"You don't have to spend a lot of money to think that you are going to make a difference," said McCutchen, who was drafted by the Pirates in 2005 and made his MLB debut in 2009.
In 2012, McCutchen signed a six-year; $51.5 million contact with the Pirates at a value that many believe makes him underpaid.
"You think about it (making more money) but at the same time I could be making no money, so it could go both ways," he said. "It was about being in Pittsburgh and playing baseball. The deal was fair and I was really happy with it."
Despite last season's success, the Pirates have struggled so far this season, falling to fourth place in the National League Central.
"Things aren't going the way we want them to right now," said McCutchen, who attributes the team's struggles to the Pirates' lack of consistency.
Even with his team's small-market status, McCutchen has emerged as a fan favorite with his jovial smile, and signature dreadlocks. His jersey is among MLB's top sellers.
His list of sponsorships continues to grow, attracting a wide range of companies from Nike to New Era Caps to the Sony PlayStation.
"I think it's my outgoing personality, I'm pretty easy to get along with," said McCutchen, who most recently teamed with T-Mobile to launch a campaign that encourages fans to vote for game-changing moments in baseball.
"I'm going to try and make a really good play and see if people vote for me," he joked.