Posted on December 13, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Andrew McCutchen trade saga may not yet be over. There was a time during the Winter Meetings when a trade looked inevitable, likely to the Washington Nationals. But when a trade with the Nationals fell through, the Pirates quickly had to pivot and act as though they weren’t actively shopping him, which was previously reported. All along, McCutchen has maintained that he’s happy in Pittsburgh and would like to spend his entire career with the Pirates if possible. However, there is still offseason chatter related to McCutchen, indicating that a trade before the start of the season is still possible.
Jon Heyman reported on Tuesday morning that the Pirates had received an offer from a “mystery team” described as a “nice offer of prospects.” Even without knowing the identity of the mystery team, this tells us that there are indeed teams other than the Nationals that view McCutchen as a desired commodity and may be willing to go after him in a trade, even as McCutchen comes off the worst offensive season of his career.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington said following the Winter Meetings that they would listen to teams if they had interest in McCutchen, just as they would for any other player, but that they would no longer make calls and proactively shop him. Of course, at this point the whole league knows that McCutchen is available and that the Pirates wouldn’t mind trading him if they receive the right offer, leaving no need for Huntington to call around.
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It’s important to keep in mind that the Pirates are still very much focused on winning in the short term, believing they have a team in place right now, presumably with McCutchen, that can compete for a playoff spot in 2017. The Pirates fell out of contention during the second half of 2016, ultimately finishing five games under .500. Nevertheless, the core of the team remains in tact, including a young pitching staff with several players who may be poised to take a step forward in 2017.
What this means is that in any trade for McCutchen, the Pirates would likely ask for prospects who will be ready to play in the big leagues in 2017 or young players who have already made their big league debut. With outfield prospect Austin Meadows likely to make his major league debut at some point in 2017, the Pirates wouldn’t necessarily need an outfielder in exchange for McCutchen, but they would need players who can contribute in 2017.
More specifically, the Pirates may be looking for help on the infield, as the club shouldn’t be sold on Jordy Mercer at shortstop and there are legal issues with third baseman Jung Ho Kang. There has also been talk about this offseason about Josh Harrison being available in a trade, so the Pirates are not quite sold on him being part of their future. The Giants, Mariners, Indians, and Dodgers are all teams that could potentially have interest in trading for McCutchen and could possibly offer the Pirates something that would interest them.
As it stands, it appears likely that McCutchen will still be with the Pirates on opening day in 2017. However, Heyman’s report that a team did make a substantial offer to Pittsburgh does leave the door open for a trade before the end of the offseason. The Pirates still appear to be driving a hard bargain, but if they get an offer the like, they won’t hesitate to trade their long-time star.