By Jared Lankes
Not many Pirates fans want to hear the chatter of a possible trade of franchise face Andrew McCutchen. However, as we go along, we may need to start thinking about Pirates’ fan life without Andrew McCutchen. The possibility of a trade of this magnitude has never been more likely than it stands here in the 2016 offseason. So, with this possibility out there for real, let’s look at possible trade partners that’d work for the Pirates in this potential trade.
White Sox- This one isn’t likely, in my opinion. There is a growing sense that the White Sox are going to rebuild instead of add. However, the thought of McCutchen to go along with Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, and Adam Eaton as cornerstone players is a doozy. Now, some might wonder why I left Jose Quintana out of this mix. The answer is simple; He would be the most likely target for the Pirates if they are to look at the White Sox or vice versa. A Quintana and McCutchen swap with some other pieces involved sounds like it could be a good deal for both teams. However, again, I don’t think the White Sox would blow it up AND get McCutchen.
Rays- Rays deal with similar things the White Sox do. They are lacking a sense of direction. However, the Rays have made it clear that they are rebuilding. However, they want to contend ASAP, and their trades have helped with that. I think they could take the next step soon, and what better way to jumpstart it than getting McCutchen. He’d immediately be a difference maker on a fringe team that needs a leader, and it’s possible an exciting trade like this puts people in the seats. I too think the Rays would need to center a package around pitching, either Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi would be the likely targets because Drew Smyly isn’t a deal breaker and Blake Snell is not going anywhere.
Indians- The Indians clearly have an outfield problem. They will be losing Coco Crisp and possibly Rajai Davis this offseason. However, Michael Brantley will be back, but his return will come with an asterisk. That leaves Tyler Naquin and some fringe outfielders. Also, the Indians might lose impact bat Mike Napoli. The formula fits for a McCutchen trade here. The Indians need a big bat, likely in the outfield and the Pirates have it. Pirates need young affordable pitching, and the Indians have it. I could see this trade actually happening with centerpieces of the deal revolving around McCutchen and Carlos Carrasco or Salazar. The deal fits more and more as you think about it. Also, I would have added piece of mind knowing that McCutchen is being left in the hands of Terry Francona.
Astros- This one is a long shot by all meanings of it. However, the Astros want an impact bat or two to deepen their lineup. This deal might not work because both teams would need to get super creative as the fit isn’t present initially. I just think a trade like this would get so creative, it’d start feeling uncomfortable for both sides.
Blue Jays- Now, at first you may not see the Blue Jays as needing a guy like McCutchen, but you’d be wrong. The Blue Jays are likely losing at least two, if not all three, of Michael Saunders, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. That is two outfielders, a DH, and overall three big bats. The Blue Jays will need to replace this if they want to continue rolling. McCutchen could help them. However, the Blue Jays killed their farm system in trades for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price and are unlikely to part with Aaron Sanchez to acquire a bat. This is another case of a team needing to get creative to make a deal or giving up something they are uncomfortable with. I don’t see it happening.
Nationals- The Nationals and Pirates had a deal in the works surrounding McCutchen at the trade deadline but too many moving parts made it a difficult trade deadline deal to manage. Could the Nationals pick talks back up about McCutchen? I mean, that’s very possible considering that the Nationals seem to always need an outfielder and are in need of another bat to get them over the top. The Nationals have the pitching depth to get such a deal done too. Guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez at the top of the list I’d imagine. The Nationals also have an array of other young talent that could be enticing. The Nationals certainly have the pieces to get a deal done, but whether they are willing to part with such pieces is the real question.
The fact of the matter is that Andrew McCutchen being traded is a real possibility but nowhere near a probability. I’d classify him being traded as a long shot still. Teams are going to line up to ask about him, but unless an offer the Pirates can’t refuse pops up, I would imagine he sticks around. In any case, the Pirates are in for an interesting offseason regarding their face of the franchise.