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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.