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Washington Nationals Rumors: Pirates “targeting” Victor Robles in Andrew McCutchen talks?

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Pittsburgh’s Pirates reportedly remain interested in Nationals’ prospect Victor Robles after targeting the outfielder in talks last summer.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When the Washington Nationals were in the market for a new closer last July/August, Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, among others, wrote that General Manager Mike Rizzo, while interested in big names like Aroldis Chapman, was unwilling to part with the Nationals’ top prospects to get a deal done.

“Best Nats trade info,” he wrote on Twitter on July 22nd. “They want in on Chapman. Others very interested. Won't give up [Lucas] Giolito, [Trea] Turner, [Victor] Robles, [Reynaldo] Lopez.”

As Svrluga noted in a follow-up tweet, however, the Nats still had plenty of depth to deal from outside of those four, mentioning names like, “[Erick] Fedde, [Austin] Voth, [Michael A.] Taylor, [Blake] Treinen, [Wilmer] Difo [and Felipe] Rivero.”

The Nationals did, of course, end up trading Rivero to the Pittsburgh Pirates (along with minor league lefty Taylor Hearn) in return for Mark Melancon, after finding the asking price for Chapman and others like Andrew Miller too high.

Earlier this month, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported that before the Nats and Bucs made that trade, they discussed another potential blockbuster deal.

Citing “major league sources”, Rosenthal wrote that, “The teams also talked about a separate blockbuster involving Pirates center-fielder Andrew McCutchen,” but, “talks broke down 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,” Rosenthal added.

“But the Pirates wanted more than just the Class A outfielder for McCutchen, and a number of other players would have been involved.”

Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $225,000 in 2013, Robles entered the 2015 campaign as the top-ranked outfield prospect in Washington’s organization according to Baseball America, coming off a .352/.445/.507, 11 doubles, five triple, four home run campaign split between the Nationals’ Gulf Coast and New York-Penn League affiliates.

MLB.com’s scouts ranked Robles second in the minors in terms of raw tools, behind only Minnesota Twins’ outfield prospect Byron Buxton last February.

“Robles earns 60s for his bat and defense, a 45 for his power, a 70 for his speed and a 65 for his arm,” MLB’s Jim Callis wrote, rating Robles on scouts’ 20-80 scale.

“He batted .352/.445/.507 with 20 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 61 games between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Short-Season Auburn as an 18-year-old making his U.S. debut last year, so his current hitting and power grades may prove to be conservative.”

Robles followed up on that breakout campaign with a .280/.376/.423, 17 double, eight triple, nine home run and 37 stolen base season over 110 games and 504 PAs with the Nationals’ Gulf Coast and Low and High-A affiliates in 2016.

“If you’re going off tools alone, he’s one of the top 10 prospects in baseball,” Nationals’ VP of International Operations Johnny DiPuglia told WaPost reporter Jorge Castillo last July.

FOXSports.com’s Rosenthal wrote again yesterday that sources told him the Nationals remain interested in McCutchen as the Pirates are once again considering dealing the outfielder this winter.

According to reports from Rosenthal this morning, the Pirates remain interested Robles:

McCutchen, 30, is coming off a down year offensively and defensively, but is under contract for $14M in 2017 with a club option for 2018 at $14.5M or a $1M buyout.

McCutchen finished the 2016 campaign with a .256/.336/.430 line, 26 doubles, and 24 home runs, at 0.7 fWAR, but is just one year removed from a .292/.401/.488, 36 double and 23 HR, 5.8 fWAR campaign in 2015.

What do you think of a package for McCutchen that starts with Robles and a high-end pitching prospect from the Nationals’ system?

UPDATE 12:15 PM: ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark just posted the following on Twitter:

“The Pirates and Nationals have ramped up discussions about a trade that would send Andrew McCutchen to Washington, according to sources who have spoken with both teams. The Nationals, according to one exec, would like to make this deal today, because the ripple effect of trading for McCutchen would likely be a move to non-tender shortstop Danny Espinosa before tomorrow's tender date.

“The Nationals have been looking for a center fielder. So if they can trade for McCutchen, he would play center, which would bounce Trea Turner to short and leave no spot for Espinosa. The Pirates are looking for controllable starting pitching. So names like Joe Ross and Reynaldo Lopez would fit that shopping list.”