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.