It would appear that the Washington Nationals are done playing games, and are tired of coming up just short of the proverbial promised land.
Thus far, the Nats have been depicted as quite the aggressive team this offseason, having been linked to free agents such as Dexter Fowler, Mark Melancon, and Ian Desmond. Washington has also been rumored with potential blockbusters for either Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen, or Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. In an interesting tweet yesterday from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Nationals seem to believe that they have enough ammunition to acquire both Sale and McCutchen.
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
Given that the Nationals are two years from potentially losing Bryce Harper, it makes sense for them to load up as much as they possibly can to give them their best shot at winning before Harper’s deal is up. While it’s entirely possible that Washington could lock Harper up, the common belief seems to be that the 24 year-old megastar has played himself outside of Washington’s price range.
In potentially acquiring Sale, the Nationals would add to an already-loaded rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg and the defending NL Cy Young award winner in Max Scherzer. The 27 year-old southpaw has seen a meteoric rise to stardom since his breakout season in 2012. Dating back to that season, Sale has compiled a 70-47 record with a 3.04 ERA. He’s been voted to six-straight All-Star games, and has finished in the top-six of Cy Young voting in the last six seasons, although he has yet to win the award.
The 30 year-old McCutchen would be a huge addition for Washington. In Cutch, the Nats are hoping to add another productive bat to the heart of their lineup, in an effort to perhaps take some pressure off of Bryce Harper, who saw serious regression last season given his 2015 MVP campaign. McCutchen has slugged at least 12 home runs in every major league season, while driving in a minimum of 50 runs per. Dating back to 2011, McCutchen has seen six straight seasons of 20+ homers and 75+ RBIs. As a result of his struggles in 2016, McCutchen’s five-year streak of All-Star game appearances came to an end. The Nats hope that by placing him in a lineup that includes Harper, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon, some of the pressure that he felt in Pittsburgh would fall off of his shoulders, and that he would return to his All-Star ways.
Of course, the main question in regards to this report is likely to surround the price. Given McCutchen’s struggles last season, he’ll come at a slightly discounted price, although Pittsburgh is still said to be targeting young talent in return. One name mentioned in a possible deal is 19 year-old outfield prospect Victor Robles. Acquiring Sale will likely take more. Based on recent reports, I’d even say a lot more. Jon Heyman of FanRagSports noted earlier this week that the White Sox were targeting players such as Turner, Alex Bregman, or Dansby Swanson in a potential Sale deal. While the Nationals certainly have the prospect depth to get both deals done, it seems difficult to see how they do so without moving Turner.
With Washington rumored to be so heavily involved in both the trade, and free agency markets, it looks as though we can keep every possible option on the table in regards to the Nationals. This will certainly remain one of the most interesting storylines to watch as the offseason progresses.
UPDATE: The talk around McCutchen appears to have heated up today, as the Rangers have remained in “frequent” talks with the Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Jon Heyman of Fan Rags also added on Twitter that the dreaded “mystery team” has also entered the fray. Perhaps the most interesting piece of McCutchen news today, however, came by way of a tweet from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, stating that the Pirates [unsuccessfully] asked the Nats for both Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles. Biertempfel went on to add that some in the Nationals organization are worried about a continued decline, and even question his leadership.