USA TODAY’s national baseball writer Bob Nightengale caused quite a stir late on the first night of the 2016 Winter Meetings, which are being held in the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland this week.
Nightengale wrote on Twitter about the Washington Nationals’ interest in acquiring both Chicago White Sox’ lefty Chris Sale and Pittsburgh Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen and the Nats’ belief that they have the prospects to get both deals done.
The #Nats are actually trying to trade for Chris Sale AND Andrew McCutchen and believe they have the prospects to pull off both trades.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 5, 2016
As we noted last night, Jon Heyman wrote at FanRag Sports on Sunday afternoon that the Nationals “... believe they can probably afford two of the three stars they covet,” with Sale, McCutchen and free agent closer Mark Melancon their top targets.
Heyman suggested that the Nationals’ aggressive approach might be tied to the fact that they see a window to win now with the current roster, noting that both right fielder Bryce Harper and second baseman Daniel Murphy are, “... under team control for two more years.”
Can the Nationals acquire both Sale and McCutchen without dealing top prospects like Trea Turner and Victor Robles?
Washington Post beat writer Chelsea Janes spoke to a person familiar with the Nats’ thinking who said the Nationals are going to try, noting in a report this morning that the Nationals, “... are discussing a deal for left-handed ace Chris Sale with the White Sox, but will not give up rookie of the year finalist Trea Turner to get him,” and adding that the same person said the Nationals remain interested in McCutchen, “... but do not want to concede Victor Robles in that deal either.”
Talking about the discussions with the Pirates on McCutchen, the WaPost reporter wrote that, “... [i]ndications are that the Nationals have made their pitch and been clear about what they will and will not give,” and they believe Robles could be ready to play in the majors within the next few seasons (after 2018) and with, “... a relative dearth of position-playing prospects compared with their pitching-heavy system, the Nationals treasure him.”
Summing up their thoughts, Janes writes that the Nationals’ thinking has not changed since they were reportedly reluctant to part with their top prospects in late-July at the non-waiver trade deadline.
“They are loyal to their prospects,” she writes, “and will not let go of players like Robles, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and the rest if they do not have to.”
Echoing what Nightengale wrote on Twitter last night, Janes adds that the Nationals do, “... believe they can make deals for Sale, McCutchen, or both, without offloading every prized prospect in their system.”
As for the latest chatter on Mark Melancon?
Janes’ colleague at the Washington Post, Jorge Castillo wrote this morning that the Nationals did, as rumored, make a 4-year offer to the closer they acquired from the Pirates last July as reported widely this weekend, though, “... it was for less than $60 million, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, likely leaving them short in the race for his services — unless he forgoes a richer deal to return to Washington.”
FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported this weekend that Melancon was weighing multiple 4-year/$60M offers:
Subsequent reports have said the Nationals remain in the mix for Melancon though they are also considering other options:
SFGiants and Nats are pushing hardest for Melancon, who's quite popular— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 5, 2016
Here are the teams in on Kenley Jansen: Nationals Marlins Yankees Giants Cubs Dodgers https://t.co/ZaI6CLixjl— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) December 5, 2016
According to a report by CSN Bay Area writer Alex Pavlovic, however, the Giants seem to believe that they are close to signing the free agent right-hander:
A couple of times over weekend, Giants felt they were very close to a Melancon deal. Strong belief inside organization that it gets done.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) December 5, 2016
Where will the Nationals turn if they can’t convince Melancon to return to the nation’s capital?