The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals are "ramping up" talks that would sent outfielder Andrew McCutchen to D.C., according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
Stark also adds that Washington would like to get the deal done today and Pittsburgh is reportedly seeking a package that includes top prospects in return. The club will most likely non-tender shortstop Danny Espinosa if it adds McCutchen.
McCutchen, 30, is coming off a career worst 2016 campaign where he slashed a line of .256/.336/.430 in 153 games played with 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in. The power threat was there this season for him, but the speed and consistency with the bat without a doubt was not. Both his batting average (.256) and total stolen bases for the year (6) was a career worst and kept him from making the outstanding highlights we usually see with the bat and on the base paths.
The connection between McCutchen and Espinosa includes Trea Turner, who could play either center or short. If the Nats add a new option in the outfield, Turner would move to his original shortstop position, and Washington would not be interested in bringing back Espinosa in 2017 at a projected $5.3 million salary.
The Pirates are reportedly eyeing top outfield prospect Victor Robles, but it is unclear whether or not the Nationals are willing to give him up. There was some chatter back during the trade deadline between these two sides about this same deal, but obviously could not come to terms on an agreement. ESPN's Stark notes that MLB-level pitchers such as right-handed starters Joe Ross and Reynaldo Lopez could draw the Pirates to pull the trigger. Certainly other prospect could be in play.
Ross, the younger brother of San Diego Padres' Tyson Ross, made his debut in 2015 with Washington after being a first round pick with San Diego in 2011. Shortly later he was traded to the Nats along with Trea Turner in that three-team blockbuster trade in 2014. Ross owned a record of 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 105 innings pitched, accumulating just 93 strikeouts.
Lopez, 22, made his MLB debut in July this season and was talked about within the organization about a top of the line starter with a 100+ MPH fastball, but was less than impressive with a 4.93 ERA in 44 innings pitched. Control seemed to be an issue for him as he walked 22 batters in 11 games pitched.
This is an ideal fit in many ways. The Nationals are set up to win now, are expected to be aggressive this offseason and have never shied away from making blockbuster moves with general manager Mike Rizzo. It gives the Nationals a truly terrifying 1-5 batting order. Turner would lead off, followed by a combination of McCutchen, Harper, Murphy and Rendon. You could put any of those guys in any particular order and get substantial production.
McCutchen isn't the cheapest outfield choice on the market as he is owned $14 million this upcoming season and a $14.5 million option for 2018. He represents a reasonable risk for Washington with newfound questions about his ability in centerfield after metrics yielded his work in 2016, but could be a high reward if he can get back to his MVP-type form.null