Last December’s Andrew McCutchen trade talks between the Nationals and Pirates included top prospect Lucas Giolito and left-hander Gio Gonzalez, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Heyman notes that talks between Pittsburgh and Washington centered around three players, and he reported back in December that Giolito and minor league righty Dane Dunning were a part of McCutchen talks. Some combination of Giolito, Dunning and Gonzalez (whose salary is roughly similar to that of McCutchen) certainly seems like a nice haul for the Pirates, though to be fair, Heyman hasn’t specifically listed that trio in a singular report, nor is it clear that said trio was ever actually offered. Furthermore, it’s not known whether the Nationals or the Pirates are the team that backed out of talks before Washington sent Giolito, Dunning and Reynaldo Lopez to the White Sox in exchange for Adam Eaton. McCutchen is off to an ugly .214/.286/.393 start at the plate, though Giolito hasn’t fared much better in the minors. Through 34 1/3 Triple-A innings, he’s posted a 6.55 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 5.0 BB/9 and a 43.3 percent ground-ball rate.
More notes on the Nats…
- Asked about what type of money Bryce Harper will command in free agency, the GM of another club tells Heyman that he believes Harper will command closer to $500MM than $400MM on the open market. Furthermore, he stated a belief that $400MM is the “baseline” for a Harper contract in free agency. There’s been plenty of consternation among fans about whether Harper has truly lived up to the hype surrounding him in his career, though his 2015 NL MVP and .376/.491/.744 start to the 2017 campaign are undeniably strong points in his favor. Harper won’t turn 25 until the season comes to a close, and he’s already been worth 24-26 wins above replacement (depending on one’s preferred version of the metric). Whether that makes him worth an investment approaching half a billion dollars is, of course, another debate, but he certainly looks to have rounded back into form after reports of a shoulder injury that plagued him throughout a “down” season (by his standards) in 2016.
- Nats general manager Mike Rizzo explained the team’s decision to move top prospect Erick Fedde to a bullpen role this season to Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. Washington felt it would have to limit Fedde’s innings this year one way or another, and keeping him in a rotation role would’ve meant shutting him down in the minors at some point. However, by moving him to the ’pen, the Nats can not only manage his innings but also take a look at the former first-rounder on the Major League roster at some point. “If he was farther away from the big leagues in our mind, we probably would just shut his innings down when they were over, and utilize that,” said Rizzo. “…We thought all along that if we were to see Fedde in the big leagues this year, it would probably be in a relief role … as the bullpen struggled and we had three guys on the disabled list at one time, we thought this was a good time to use the transformation to get him into the bullpen.”
- Rizzo also explained to Zuckerman that the Nats consider right-hander Joe Ross “too valuable” as a starting pitcher to consider a similar shift to the bullpen. Rizzo stated that Ross’ stuff is “too good” and referred to him as a “proven starter,” though the Nationals do currently have Ross in Triple-A in an effort to improve his effectiveness against left-handed opponents. Rizzo notes that Ross is “100 percent” healthy but may have been losing his release point as he worked deeper into starts.