- The Nats have found the Pirates’ asking price on Andrew McCutchen to be too high, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. This doesn’t necessarily close the door on a McCutchen trade, though Sherman writes that the Nationals are reportedly more focused on other options, including a deal for Sale.
2:20pm: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (on Twitter) that the Pirates asked the Nationals for both Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles but were (unsurprisingly) rebuffed. The Nats do have some questions about McCutchen’s potential decline and also his leadership, according to Biertempfel.
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets that the Rangers also find the asking price on McCutchen extremely high, as they’ve been asked for an established starting pitcher and additional prospect value in return.
12:39pm: The Rangers have been in “frequent” contact with the Pirates about McCutchen, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. A deal between the two sides is possible but not close at this time, he adds. Heyman adds that he’s heard it’s “not likely” that the Rangers would actually meet the Pirates’ asking price, though. Additionally, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweeted earlier today that the Dodgers have made a recent inquiry on McCutchen as well.
11:10am: There’s a “mystery team” pursuing Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Pittsburgh is said to be looking for a taker for its longtime star.
To this point, the Nationals have been tied most closely to the former MVP center fielder. The Dodgers, too, have been mentioned recently as having interest, while the Rangers and Mariners have also been connected. But the other possible suitor is a team that hasn’t yet been publicly associated with the Bucs’ stalwart, per the report.
That leaves 25 other organizations that could conceivably have interest. A variety of teams — potentially including the Orioles, Blue Jays, Giants, Phillies, Mets, and Cardinals — might make some degree of sense, and surely there are others that could become involved in the right circumstances.
The Braves are reportedly still in the mix for Chris Sale, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Atlanta also made a run at Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray but found Oakland’s asking price to be prohibitive (Twitter link). Oakland did not ask for Dansby Swanson to be included in the deal, but Atlanta still felt the A’s were asking for too much in return.
A few more notes on the market for starting pitchers…
- The Royals are gauging interest in left-hander Danny Duffy, reports MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). Duffy had a breakout campaign this past season, tossing 179 2/3 innings with a 3.51 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 36.4 percent ground-ball rate. As Morosi points out, he could make sense for a team looking to augment its rotation but unwilling to part with the talent required to land someone like Chris Sale or Chris Archer. Duffy, however, is a free agent next winter, so he’d be a short-term upgrade rather than a long-term solution like those other names.
- The Astros are more likely to trade for rotation help than they are to pursue the remaining free agents on the market, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Houston isn’t in on right-hander Ivan Nova and likely considers him to be too expensive, per Olney. The Astros are reportedly open to moving either Collin McHugh or Mike Fiers as they seek to create some roster/payroll flexibility, as Olney’s colleague, Jayson Stark, reported earlier today.
- Pirates officials are set to meet with free agent lefty Derek Holland at some point this week at the Winter Meetings, reports Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). The Bucs have been linked to H0lland on multiple occasions this winter as the former Ranger looks to rebuild his stock with a healthy 2017 campaign.
- The Marlins are showing some interest in right-hander Doug Fister, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman, but adding an established closer is the team’s No. 1 priority at the moment. This isn’t the first time Miami has been connected to Fister, but that fact that they’re still interested after adding Edinson Volquez to the mix is notable.
7:22am: The Nationals regard Robles as an integral long-term piece and are unwilling to trade him for McCutchen, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. A deal could still happen in spite of that, Janes notes. Further, contrary to an earlier report, the Nats never planned to non-tender Espinosa.
12:02am: The Nationals have been linked to a pair of potential blockbuster deals with the White Sox for ace lefty Chris Sale and the Pirates for former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, though apparently in the Nats’ view, the possible trades aren’t an either/or proposition. Washington think they have enough prospect depth to manage both trades, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link), and are trying to work out deals with Chicago and Pittsburgh.
While the Nationals have been no strangers to big moves over the years, landing Sale and McCutchen would be quite a coup for GM Mike Rizzo. Doing so without trading Trea Turner (who the Nats have already balked at including in a Sale deal) would be more impressive, though Washington has several other strong young talents both in the minors and on the big league roster.
Lucas Giolito, Victor Robles, Reynaldo Lopez and Erick Fedde are each ranked within MLB.com’s top 100 prospects in all of baseball, while less-heralded but still notable youngsters like Dane Dunning, Carter Kieboom or Austin Voth would also draw trade interest. There’s also A.J. Cole, a former top 100 prospect who hasn’t shown much in limited big league action, or perhaps hard-throwing reliever Trevor Gott. Looking to the big league roster, McCutchen’s acquisition would push Turner back to shortstop and make Danny Espinosa expendable, while the Nats could also deal from the back end of the rotation and try to move Gio Gonzalez or a younger arm in Joe Ross.
There’s no shortage of interesting names in the Nationals organization to speculate about as trade chips, though it would seemingly take several of them to land both Sale and McCutchen. (In fact, it’ll take several just to pry Sale out of Chicago given how the White Sox have a huge asking price on their ace.) McCutchen’s price is lower due to his rough 2016 season, though the Pirates still want premium young talent in return.
Even if one or both of these trades don’t work out, anything seems on the table for the Nats at this point, given how they’ve also been linked to free agents like Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez and Mark Melancon. Signing a free agent might be preferable than dealing away multiple young players, though at a greater financial cost than one guaranteed year for McCutchen and Sale’s team-friendly contract.
5:45pm: Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) that his team isn’t looking at the trades like the blockbuster that brought Cole Hamels to Texas in 2015, which would seem to confirm that the Rangers indeed aren’t in on Sale right now.
SUNDAY, 1:40pm: Mark Bowman of MLB.com joins Heyman in reporting that the Braves aren’t willing to give up Swanson, whom the White Sox covet. Discussions between the two teams aren’t leading anywhere as a result (Twitter link). While it won’t surrender Swanson, Atlanta would consider parting with Albies, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).
SATURDAY: The Braves have already added three starting pitchers in Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia early this offseason, and they’re now trying to swing a trade with the White Sox for ace Chris Sale, according to Fanrag’s Jon Heyman. However, there’s competition in the form of the Astros, Nationals, Red Sox, Rangers and Dodgers, writes Heyman, who notes that Los Angeles is lagging behind because it’s hesitant to deal any of its top prospects.
The Dodgers are more focused on bolstering their rotation through free agency than trades, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, which aligns with a report from earlier Saturday that they have a deal in place to re-sign left-hander Rich Hill. Contrary to Heyman, Rosenthal relays that the Astros and Rangers are out on Sale at the White Sox’s current asking price. And while the Red Sox are involved, they’re also reluctant to meet Chicago’s demands (Twitter link).
After agreeing to sign outfielder/designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, Astros owner Jim Crane told Mark Berman of FOX 26 that the team will go into the winter meetings seeking pitching, but it’s unlikely to make any “big moves” (Twitter link). That would seem to rule out a Sale acquisition for Houston.
Based on reports from Heyman and Rosenthal, both the Braves and National League East rival Nats – who are continuing their discussions with the Pirates regarding center fielder Andrew McCutchen, per Rosenthal – are among the front-runners for Sale.
It’s unlikely the Braves would include prized young shortstop Dansby Swanson in a trade, Heyman suggests, but the belief is that they have the pieces to make a deal happen. Atlanta has major league trade chips in center fielder Ender Inciarte and right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, not to mention a well-regarded prospect pool that features the likes of middle infielder Ozzie Albies, southpaws Sean Newcomb and Kolby Allard, and righties Mike Soroka and Touki Toussaint. Baseball America included all five of those players in its Midseason Top 100 prospects list.
- The Pirates are willing to pay some of left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo’s $6.5MM salary for 2017 in order to trade him, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bastardo’s coming off a disappointing year spent with the Mets and Bucs, as he logged a 4.52 ERA in 67 2/3 innings and allowed a .253/.321/.495 line to lefty hitters. He’s currently one of four southpaws in Pittsburgh’s bullpen, joining Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero and Wade LeBlanc.
The Nationals and Pirates re continuing to discuss “a lot of different angles” that would result in outfielder Andrew McCutchen landing in D.C., according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (via Twitter). He notes that the information came from a source in the Pittsburgh organization.
There had been some suggestion that the Nats wanted to make a move on McCutchen before this evening’s non-tender deadline. The idea, it seems, was that the club would non-tender shortstop Danny Espinosa if it added McCutchen, which would free Trea Turner to move back into the infield.
As it turned out, nothing is yet done and Washington tendered Espinosa. That apparently isn’t posing much of an obstacle to continued exploration of a deal involving McCutchen. It’s worth bearing in mind that even tendered players aren’t guaranteed their full contracts until late in the spring. And Espinosa would likely be a plausible trade candidate if D.C. decided to part ways.
Regarding the fact that there are still many different scenarios at play, that’s perhaps not surprising. All indications are that the Bucs wish to obtain premium young talent in any trade involving McCutchen. We’ve heard top Nats prospect Victor Robles mentioned quite a bit, along with a variety of the club’s quality, youthful starting pitching. From the perspective of the Nationals, though, giving up even Robles seems like a big ask given McCutchen’s struggles in this past season. It seems possible that the organizations are working on ways to balance out the value — perhaps, even involving other teams — to facilitate a mutually agreeable swap, though it’s all guesswork at this point.
- Lefty Wade LeBlanc and the Pirates have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $800K, according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman (on Twitter). Leblanc will make $750K in 2017, and his contract contains an option for the 2018 season that is valued at $1.25MM and comes with a $50K buyout. The veteran southpaw logged a 4.50 ERA in 50 innings for the Mariners last year before being traded to the Buccos, where he allowed one run in 12 innings of work with a 10-to-2 K/BB ratio. The 62 innings Leblanc logged last year were the most he’s pitched in a big league season since 2012. He’s controllable through the 2019 season and would be arbitration-eligible once more if the Pirates exercise their 2018 option on him.
While much of the trade chatter on Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has focused on the Nationals, the Dodgers are also a plausible suitor, per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. There’s interest from Los Angeles in the 30-year-old, not least of which because he’s controllable at a fairly reasonable salary and doesn’t come with a lengthy commitment.