FOXSports.com’s bow-tied reporter Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this month that the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates talked about a potential blockbuster deal for outfielder Andrew McCutchen this past summer before they agreed on a deal that brought veteran closer Mark Melancon to the nation’s capital in return for left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and left-handed prospect Taylor Hearn.
According to Rosenthal’s sources, however, “talks collapsed due to the large number of moving parts,” and were unlikely to revive, “... because of differences in McCutchen’s perceived value.”:
“The Nationals’ top outfield prospect, Victor Robles, 19, was one Pirates target, sources said. But the Pirates wanted more than just the Class A outfielder for McCutchen, and a number of other players would have been involved.”
The talks, he noted, amounted, “... to the strongest indication yet that the Pirates are willing to move their five-time All-Star and franchise player.”
McCutchen, 30, is coming off a .256/.336/.430, 26 double, 24 home run, 0.7 fWAR campaign in Pittsburgh in which he struggled at the plate and in center field.
Over the course of his eight-year career, the outfielder has put up a .292/.381/.487 line, finishing at .292/.401/.488, with 36 doubles and 23 HRs in a 5.8 fWAR season as recently as 2015 after 6.8 and 8.4 fWAR campaigns in the previous two seasons.
Sources: Likelihood Andrew McCutchen plays in Pittsburgh in 2017 is dwindling. As @Ken_Rosenthal said, Pirates almost certain to move him.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 30, 2016
In a follow-up report this afternoon, Rosenthal writes that the Pirates, “... continue to explore deals involving McCutchen,” and the Nationals, “... who discussed McCutchen with the Pirates before the non-waiver deadline, remain interested, sources say.”
The Nationals, he adds, “are also pursuing a closer and exploring a trade for White Sox lefty Chris Sale, but the acquisition of a center fielder would allow them to move Trea Turner back to shortstop, his natural position.”
The Pirates, Rosenthal writes, are, “... seeking significant young talent in return for their franchise player and the 2013 National League MVP, sources say. If they are not compelled to act, they can simply keep him for another year.”
McCutchen is set to make $14M in 2017, in the sixth year of the 6-year/$51.5M deal he signed with the Pirates in 2012, which includes a club option for 2018 at $14.5M or a $1M buyout, so any team that acquires him would have two years of control.
In spite of his struggles in center last year, which saw McCutchen finish at an NL-worst -28 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) among qualified center fielders, with an NL-worst -18.7 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), the outfielder, Rosenthal notes, told MLB.com writer Adam Berry recently, “I don't see myself needing to move. I don't feel like I'm slowing down and hurting my team because of where I play.”
How about McCutchen in center with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper in the corners and Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin or Ben Revere (if he’s not non-tendered this week) as a fourth outfielder?
Will the Nationals and Pirates find some middle ground on McCutchen’s “perceived value” if talks progress this time around?