UPDATE: The Pirates are not only getting calls expressing interest in McCutchen, but they are actually actively shopping their star centerfielder, according to Jeff Passan.
The Rangers and Nationals also aren’t the only team being contacted about McCutchen. While many teams have likely checked in on his availability, the Mariners have also had discussions about acquiring McCutchen.
While the Pirates are looking primarily for prospects in return, one of the most interesting reports is that the Pirates are actively looking for a replacement outfielder in the event McCutchen is moved.
Important to add to McCutchen trade talks: Sources say Pirates asking other teams about outfielders. Planning ahead in case they move him.— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) November 30, 2016
While looking for outfield help may not necessarily coincide with replacing McCutchen, all of these reports together suggest that Huntington and the rest of the Pirates front office are up to something.
Andrew McCutchen’s time as a member of the Pirates appears to be nearing an end. According to both Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal, the likelihood of McCutchen returning with the Pirates this upcoming season is dwindling.
The 30-year-old McCutchen is coming off the worst season of his career. After being one of the most elite centrefielders in baseball the previous five seasons, McCutchen’s defensive abilities seemed to decline, and the all-star hit just six percent better than the league average.
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
Despite coming off of a down year, McCutchen’s abilities and contract are still drawing significant trade interest from teams around the league. Due just under $29 million over the next two seasons, McCutchen is still a valuable contributor despite maybe needing to transfer to a corner outfield spot.
Of the inquiring teams, the Rangers and Nationals seem to be the most likely destinations at this point. The Rangers have the potential losses of Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez, and Carlos Beltran to cope with in their outfield. With Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara almost definitely manning the corner spots, McCutchen could be the center piece of an extremely powerful outfield for the Rangers—though perhaps not the most defensive.
On the other hand, the Nationals could be looking for the centerfielder to complement Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. The Nationals tried Ben Revere out there recently, which had mixed results, and currently have Trea Turner on their depth chart despite being a natural middle infielder.
Both the Rangers and Nationals have the farm system to pull off a blockbuster deal involving McCutchen. What a deal involving McCutchen would look like remains to be seen, but if the likelihood of a deal has increased it likely means that Neal Huntington and the rest of the Pirates front office is getting significant enough interest involving what they believe to be fair value.