The Pittsburgh Pirates did try hard to trade Andrew McCutchen in the winter, and things got closest with the Washington Nationals.
The talk, according to sources, revolved around three players, including Lucas Giolito and veteran Gio Gonzalez.
The Nationals, of course, opted to make a trade with the Chicago White Sox instead, acquiring Adam Eaton for right-handed pitchers Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. The Nationals like Eaton for his lengthy contract at the right price (four years left) and ability to provide a spark. They felt he was doing just that before blowing out his knee and tearing his ACL.
McCutchen, meanwhile, was coming off the worst season in his impressive career. He followed up a season in which he finished fifth in NL MVP voting by hitting .256 with a career-worst .766 OPS. Eaton hit .284 with great defense, something that’s gotten worse in recent years for McCutchen.
McCutchen’s awful start (he’s slipped even from last year) makes a deal seem highly unlikely now, even with Eaton presumably out for the year.
The Pirates outfielder is hitting .214 with a .679 OPS and is owed $14 million this year with a $14.5-million option for 2018.
Outfield isn’t the biggest need for the Nationals anyway. They’re currently searching the market and internally discussing potential closers, as they’ve needed to use five different relievers to get saves this year. They have time after building an 8.0-game lead in the NL East over the Atlanta Braves.
The Pirates, meanwhile, are 17-23 on the season, last in the NL Central. They’re 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.