There have been several teams connected to Andrew McCutchen in the rumor mill, although the team most connected to him has been the Washington Nationals. Heading into the meetings, it looked like they would have to decide between trading for McCutchen or Chris Sale. Toward the end of day one, it looked like they made their decision, with the rumors suggesting they were focusing on Sale, and moving closer to a deal.

The rumored talks involve Victor Robles and Lucas Giolito, who are the prospects the Pirates were asking for in a McCutchen trade. If both are gone, it would be difficult to see the Nationals as a destination for McCutchen. That would create the need to step back and look at what each team could offer in a deal. So let’s do that tonight, going with the assumption that the Nationals would deal Robles and Giolito for Sale, and looking at the market for McCutchen after that type of deal.

Washington Nationals

If Robles and Giolito go to the White Sox in a Chris Sale deal, then it would remove two of the top pieces for McCutchen. It would be difficult to see the Nationals as a trade partner for McCutchen if this happens. You’d think they would have to swap in a young pitcher with years of control to make a deal happen.

Joe Ross would be an interesting name. The right-hander has a combined 181.2 innings in the majors the last two years, with a 3.52 ERA, a 3.76 xFIP, an 8.0 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9. He’s combined for a 3.4 fWAR in that time. The only problem is he’s yet to throw a complete season in the majors, and hasn’t thrown much over 150 innings in a single season in his career. If you gave him a 2.0 WAR for his trade value, he’d actually be worth more than McCutchen, at $62 M. But that might be optimistic to project him for that amount over five years, based on two partial seasons.

Ross would be lower upside than someone like Robles or Giolito, but also a higher floor. The Pirates would probably need another prospect in the deal, and it’s hard to tell who might be available without knowing who could be traded for Sale. I think a package of Robles and Reynaldo Lopez would be a fair package for McCutchen, and a package of Ross/Lopez and a lower ranked third prospect could match that value. The downside here is that you wouldn’t have the high upside guy who could be a star player one day.

Los Angeles Dodgers

This might be the team with the most upside if the Sale trade goes through. Right-handed pitcher Jose De Leon is the prospect the Pirates should target, as he could provide an impact arm for the rotation, with higher upside than someone like Ross or Lopez from the Nationals. De Leon and first baseman Cody Bellinger would be a fair package, although the Dodgers seem hesitant to deal Bellinger.

The Dodgers do have several other top prospects who made Baseball America’s mid-season top 100. Alex Verdugo, a left-handed hitting outfielder, ranked 44th overall. Willie Calhoun, a second baseman, rounded out the list at 98. The Dodgers have a lot of prospect depth, and might now be the best match for the Pirates if they’re willing to give up an impact guy like De Leon.

Texas Rangers

It would be hard to see the Rangers matching up with the Pirates. Their farm system is pretty thin at the top, with the best prospect being Joey Gallo. He has a ton of power, but some pretty alarming strikeout issues, looking like a three true outcomes guy. The Pirates also wouldn’t have much need for him, so the only way it would make sense to make a deal is if there was a third team that would be interested in Gallo.

There are a few prospects who could be good second pieces. The Rangers would probably have to give up some MLB talent to get a deal done, especially if Gallo wasn’t an option. And there also aren’t many MLB-ready young pitching options available here, making the Rangers even less of a fit.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners would be even less of a fit, which is probably why we don’t hear much about them. They had one prospect in Baseball America’s mid-season top 100, and that was Tyler O’Neill. I just don’t see them being strong contenders for McCutchen, as they’d have to trade away a lot from their MLB team to make a deal work.

Mystery Team

There was a “mystery team” mentioned today, but no word yet on who that team could be. I’m not going to go into details here, or try to guess who could be an option. Taking a skeptical view, if there was a serious mystery team, you’d think we would have heard something by now, other than the fact that there’s a mystery team. Then again, the Pirates tend to play things close to the vest, and most of their moves come out of nowhere, with very few rumors. So you can’t rule out another team being in the mix.

Pittsburgh Pirates

It seemed like McCutchen was a guarantee to be traded this week, but with the recent Sale rumors, that might change. If, at the end of the meetings, McCutchen is still on the team, then I’ll do an article talking about how the Pirates can contend with him in 2017 (also assuming they would have made some moves between now and then). The fact that every team is talking about a high asking price is encouraging, as it seems Neal Huntington is sticking to his guns, and playing a position where he doesn’t have to trade McCutchen unless the return is right. We’ll see where that lands McCutchen by the end of the week.

**If McCutchen is traded, any prospects brought back will be included in the 2017 Prospect Guide. We’re working hard to make this the best edition yet. The book will be released in mid-January, but you can pre-order your copy today, with discounts for Annual and Top Prospect subscribers.

**Andrew McCutchen Drawing Interest From Dodgers, Rangers, Mystery Team. A rundown of all of the McCutchen rumors from throughout the day.

**Pirates Are Reportedly Eyeing Jake Odorizzi. This isn’t the first time they’ve been linked to Odorizzi, although I think they’d have to give up one of their top five prospects to get him.

**Pirates Notes: AFL Top Prospects and Rule 5 Names to Watch. A lot of love for Eric Wood in both categories.

**Winter Leagues: Elias Diaz Hits His First Home Run of the Winter. Good to see Diaz getting some playing time this off-season, after missing so much time in 2016.

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  1. Sale changes Sox…from white to red. Leave Nats reeling and needing an addition. See if they are all talk or want to go for it next two years

  2. Tell me, what is the downside for Cutch staying? Prospects are all suspects until they make it to the show and succeed. Cutch is a sure thing.

    • Prospects aren’t guaranteed, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. But to act like McCutchen or any MLB player is a guarantee is also wrong. We saw this just last year with McCutchen.

  3. And boom, the nationals don’t get sale so cutch is now a bigger target for them. Who would have thought the Red Sox would swoop in!

  4. you got to hand it to NH. He wont deal unless gets his price. I think NH will wait to the deadline if he has to.

  5. Concerning NH’s comments about windows of opportunity, it got me thinking how difficult it is to maintain competitiveness while spending $50 million less than the median.

    NH deserves a ton of credit for picking up wins in creative ways (pitch framing, ground balls, defensive shifts, etc.) during the WC seasons. We came close to toppling the Cards in 2013 and we were one Jake Arrietta from making some noise in the 2015 playoffs.

    2016 doesn’t really prove that NH failed as much as it shows how close we are to failing every year with our budget. If Cutch, Cole, and Liriano had maintained their performances from 2015, we win 10 extra games and host the WC game again. Instead we are under 500!

  6. Why are Bucs not copying what the White Sox are doing and seeing what kind of package of players could be acquired for Gerrit Cole? Granted he is not Chris Sale,
    but if NH is offering Cutch around because there is no way he will resign in two years, shouldn’t he be offering Cole around for the same reason? Couldn’t agree more with whoever said NH waited one year too long to trade Cutch for best possible return. Why make the same mistake with Cole?

    • That is such BS. Cutch was an MVP candidate and we had a good team coming back in 2016. He was also cheap. Whoever said that we waited one year too long has the hindsight being 20/20. The white sox aren’t a good baseball team either. We had 3 consecutive playoff berths, white sox had 0.

      You know what, we should have traded Barry Bonds back in the 90s too since he left town…. I think we waited one year too many there.

  7. IMO, the Yanks could offer a decent package that would line up with the Bucs if they wanted to:

    – Michael Pineda
    – Clint Frazier
    – Domingo Acevedo
    – additional Low level interesting prospect

    I don’t know the values of WAR & prospects, but after a quick look, it’d seem rather fair. Guess it depends on how much the Yanks would want to reload their pitching staff.

  8. Jose De Leon, a drop-and-drive righty who’s never induced more than a 40% ground ball rate, just doesn’t strike me as the type of pitcher the Pirates would target. Most outlets peg him as a #3, with a high floor and the only knocks being a shaky breaking ball and a relatively flat fastball that could be prone to giving up dingers, and boy did he ever in four MLB starts last year. Certainly a fine prospect, and the Pirates love them control/command guys with good changeups, but until we see how this league-wide spike in homeruns plays out I’d be hesitant to target a guy like this as the centerpiece. Then again, didn’t stop them from gushing over Drew Hutchison, so what do I know.

    If the Pirates were willing to wait out the development of 19 yo Victor Robles, they should absolutely be targeting the far better Dodger pitching prospect, Yadier Alvarez.

    • You are absolutely right. Doesn’t Deleon drop and drive delivery and what is viewed as a “flat” fastball in some circles sound exactly like what the Pirates spent a few years trying to change about Taillon? Fly ball pitcher as well which you noted.

  9. I actually like that Washington trade better. It gives us two starting pitchers this year in Ross and Lopez. Moving Glasnow and Hutchison to AAA with Brault, Williams, and Kingham.
    We could then focus on middle infield and relief pitching

  10. These deals are extremely difficult to pull off, I know. But it seems like two things: (1) a 3 team deal with Nats and White Sox should work and (2) a Cutch+JHay deal with LAD should work.

    Again, I know these are difficult deals but these seem like natural fits for the situation.

    • Two team deals are hard to pull off, too. 🙂 🙂

      Jim Bowden did an excellent ESPN INsider article on the “Art of the Deal”. It was fascinating. They don’t happen with just a phone call or two. 🙂

  11. Tim, my initial frustration has worn off and if I am looking at this objectively I would say the mystery team would the Yankees. I say that bc they can afford to pay Cutch what ever he wants, DH will be appealing to him instead of days off, and mostly bc I don’t think the Yankees are stockings up on prospects for their health. I

    If the Pirates can’t land the other teams best prospect and a pitcher do the trade him. I hope they don’t make another A. Rameriez trade! The Dodgers trade to me seems like the best fit. A major league ready pitcher and a 1st basemen, two big wholes on our current team. Bell can play full time in RF, Marte in CF and Polanco in LF. With Frazier and Jay Hay getting some time out there also. I don’t think Meadows will be ready until June 2018.

    But the only bright spot I guess would be all the young guys will get a lot of playing time.

    Side note just my thought Jay Hay and Cutch will Ben packaged together.

    • I’m not sure how much upper level talent the Yankees have that they would be willing to trade. Their big goal the last couple of years seems to be developing that talent and start funneling it onto the major league roster.

      I would also hate to see McCutchen as a Yankee since they are one of the teams I despise.

  12. Since it doesn’t appear they are getting a “godfather” offer for McCutchen they should just hold onto him. I fear that they have made up their mind to trade him and will eventually accept a lower offer. It seems like the Nats want star level players without giving up anything.

    On a side note, over a month ago I predicted a contract of 3/$35M Melacon and was on the high side. I guess everyone greatly underestimated that one. Also, great for him. Although I never met him, he seemed like a really class guy.

    Between Walker, Melancon, & McCutchen (possibly) that is a lot of class and leadership leaving the clubhouse.

    • The team as we knew it has been deconstructed. No we aren’t going back to the bad old days of the Littlefield era but this team clearly being one of top 5 teams in NL as it was from 2013-15 is over. The window is closing rapidly before your eyes. Maybe not if you define a window like Tim where competing for 2nd WC every few years counts as being “open” but I think this is quickly turning into a middling team. For all the hype about the new wave people forget about how consistently solid the old wave was. With his defense does Josh Bell even approximate the production we received form Walker from 2010-2015 where you could basically depend on 2.8 FWAR a year? I’m skeptical.

      Pitchers break all the time. Do Taillon and Glasnow ever match what we received from Liriano/Burnett in 2013?

      To his credit NH really built this team making savvy free agent moves. NH (or more specifically Mike Fitzgerald) targeted Russ Martin before there was a complete appreciation of defense and pitch framing and he basically popped out a career year offensively to be a 5 WAR player. But I’m not expecting a repeat of such finds going forward. The Pirates no longer have an edge in analytics as the rest of baseball has caught up for the most part.

      While baseball salaries and payrolls continue to inflate, looking back since 2015 the Pirates has stagnated and will most likely fall in 2017. ESPN’s woes very well may be a signal the cable bubble is bursting. Can’t overstate how bad Coonely fu*ked us with the Root TV deal.

      • Extremely well said.

        Huntington’s fatal flaw is that he’s devised a vision that’s incompatible with the reality of the system in which he’s forced to play.

        As has been repeatedly shown, the current state of Major League Baseball is overwhelmingly cyclical. Never-ending windows are simply impractical without the financial resources to supplement the inevitable gaps in talent. Continually trading off core pieces without sacrificing Major League wins necessitates that the return in talent fits the holes present (hello Jon Niese) and also actually ends successfully (again, paging Mr. Niese).

        With the decision to punt last year on a team at the peak of it’s win cycle, Huntington now finds the organization on the downturn. The only decision remaining is how long they want to spend there.

        • Could not agree more. This idea of a perma-window or continually being a contender is sheer folly. I mean as I said before, Tim and perhaps some others think a team that might challenge for a 2nd WC every couple years is a team with a window continually open. Me… I’d much rather have cashed some more chips in 2014 and 2015 and not punted 2016 away.

          The comical thing is even after the disastrous moves going into last year(Vogie) many people rationalized it as “but hey we probably won’t win division anyway, we’ll just take WC and get ready for 2017”

          This team stunk last year. And I’m too lazy to look it up but per Baseruns I think we were actually 4 or 5 games worse than our record which was “achieved” through career years from Srod, Joyce etc

          • Baseball is a beautifully humbling game of failure. More so than any other sport.

            If you build an ~85 win team in the hopes of over-performing your way into a wild card spot, you’ll end up with an ~80-win club more often than not.

    • From 2011-2015 you basically could pencil in Cutch for about 6 WAR a year and Walker for at least 2.5 or generally closer to 3.

      That’s a base of about 9 WAR Littlefield handed over(yes we all know NH “developed” them) but that isn’t a bad 2 guys to inherit.

      I’m not holding my breath on any 2 players from the new wave coming close to matching that going forward once Cutch is dealt.

  13. How about we get sale? Glasnow and meadows for sale is just as good as the nats offer and even better since meadows is in aaa already.

    • Absolutely not! Sale is mentally fragile. He needs to be a complimentary piece to a team to be most effective. He’d implode in a place like Pittsburgh!

    • While I agree 100%, there is no way Huntington gives up both Glasnow and Meadows for Sale, even though he should.

  14. I’m surprised we haven’t heard much buzz about the Yankees. I think they could be a strong mystery team. We have good trade history with them and Yanks got a loaded farm system to make a deal. Frazier and Severino would be starters for me.

  15. At this point it almost seems like it is best if McCutchen is dealt. With all of these rumors being leaked about him being “aggressively” pushed they may have a disgruntled player who shows up each day just barely going through the motions a la Jose Tabata.

    • Cutch is too proud of a player and person for this to be a distraction. He understands the business side of baseball, plus he’s also playing for his next contract.

  16. Help me here….forget Joe Ross!! Tanner Roark is the prize!! That dude is a stud!! I think he is controllable for 3 or 4 years!! I would love to take him, Trea Turner (5 years of control) and a lower level prospect!! That would work for me!! Turner is a stud!!

  17. One thing being massively overlooked is the fact that this current roster goes into the season with Steven Brault as the only semi-maybe viable LH SP option. In a division that features left handed power (Carptenter, Rizzo, Votto, etc.) wouldn’t logic suggest we are looking into left handed starting pitching?

    Since we obv. aren’t getting Sale, Quintana honestly seems like the best possible option. Can’t remember ever seeing a rotation that didn’t have at least one lefty starting.

    • Quintana, Paxton, or Snell (TB) and I’d be thrilled. Smyly sucks, Gio Gonzales sucks, wouldn’t go near them.

        • If the Nat’s get Sale, maybe we could take Gio’s 12M off their hands by trading them Watson straight up. Gio would be a serviceable #4. Then trade Cutch for DeLeon (and others) and presto, we have a starting rotation.

          • Did you not read what I said? I live here in the DC area. Nats can’t even give Gio away. The guy is not a “serviceable 4”

      • Smyly has the “stuff” so to speak to generate plenty of strikeouts. My thoughts on him are buy low and see if Searage can get some consistency out of him. He’s shown plenty of flashes in the past.

        • Yes, I would bend more for Smyly than Gio. However, still firmly believe Rodon, Quintana, and Snell from TB should be the targets.

    • I read a rumor about Duffy in KC. I dunno if Pirates are pursuing him but it gave me a little hope there are some viable under the radar guys.

    • Cards won WS with 5 Righty starters. I would rather have a Nova or decent RH over a Locke,Niese…. Just to have a LH. 5 best pitchers regardless of dexterity.

  18. Montas and Holmes went to Oakland in the Rich Hill deal. So while they are both good pieces, not available from LAD.

    • Holmes, Montas, and Cotton for Reddick and Hill. In the Top 30 of the Oakland A’s, Holmes is #3, Montas #8, and Cotton #14. Montas looked very strong in the AFL.

      If a deal is going to be made with the Dodgers, IMO, it will have to include Cody Bellinger and Jose DeLeon. Four days ago Nick Caparosa identified DeLeon and Alex Verdugo. who is a very talented CF/OF and played at AA Tulsa as a 20 year old in 2016. Another pitching add could be RHP Brock Stewart.

        • The Dodgers are trying to bring in some impact RH Hitters to their lineup so you can go with your first two ‘Cutch and Jhay and expect everybody you listed except Urias.

          When you see Melancon getting 4/$62, I hold onto Watson and every other pitcher in the Farm System.

  19. I wonder: what’s plan B? If Cutch isn’t going to get top shelf players there is no point in trading him. But we still have a huge problem (again) with starting pitchers. I’m fine with Taillon and Kuhl in the rotation despite the fact that both are essentially still rookies. But we’d still need two more pitchers. The obvious failure last year has not been addressed at all. And looking at the free agents, there just isn’t a difference maker. Nova is OK, but not great. Ordorizzi would be very good, or maybe Archer? But we have to try to win.

    • Excellent points, Douglas!! I agree completely. We need at least two good stating pitchers to add to the current mix to have any hope at all of competing with the Cubs and Cards in the Central.

      • we’d need two pitchers and to keep cutch in order for that to happen, which would require us to empty out our prospects, therefore forget it. 2017 is a compete year- 75-85 wins, that’s it guys

        • Y2: The Pirates imploded in 2016, especially the Rotation. They finished 78-83 and the experts identified 4 Pirates as being in the Top 10 Prospects in the AAA International League – Glasnow, Meadows, Taillon, and Bell. I can see a lot of improvement if we use Bell immediately, then Meadows and Glasnow in Jun.

          Cole remains, and Taillon and Kuhl more than adequately replaced Liriano and Niese. We still have our 2016 #4 Nicasio. I think if Glasnow, Kingham, Brault, or Hutchison can be an improvement on Locke and Nicasio, we will be closer to the 85-88 win level. But we need for ‘Cutch to return to pre-’16 levels, Cervelli to get beyond the Hamate injury, and Marte to return to his norm.

          • Marte needs to not get beaned so much and stay healthy. I want Kang to get his shit together. I see him hitting 30+ homers over full healthy season.

            I truly hope Glasnow puts it together. A top 3 of Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow would be very good. I think Kingham is going to be a very good MLB pitcher and I also have a lot of faith in Brault being a sneaky good pitcher. I have no faith Hutchison and would prefer to act like the Liriano trade never happened.

          • well said emjay- but I’m not sure how you discount the loss of about 8 WAR from our bench and Melancon. Every other team is getting better, we are fighting to keep as good as we are through internal improvement. That’s an unlikely gamble.

      • Even if this off season is a dud for bucs the Cards have their own set of problems and are catchable as is, granted a lot has to go right w current roster. Cubs I agree.

  20. You make no mention of Brock Stewart in your Dodgers discussion. I know Hurdle likes him based on his comments in the one game he pitched against the Bucs. I think the Dodgers have the best chance of landing Cutch with a Stewart, De Leon, potential fringe prospect deal. Watch and wait.

  21. Cutch ain’t going nowhere if Nationals get Sale unless they truly don’t want him. Proposed trading him during the summer but selling low isn’t a great idea. Cutch will rebound

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