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Bucs, Nats could strike McCutchen deal

Previous Washington targets Melancon, Sale landed elsewhere at Meetings
MLB.com

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Andrew McCutchen is still a Pirate, but that could change now that Mark Melancon and Chris Sale will not be Nationals.

The Red Sox made the biggest move of the offseason on Tuesday, acquiring former White Sox ace Sale for a haul of top prospects. On Monday, the Giants jump-started the run on closers by signing Melancon, the former Pirate, to a four-year, $62 million deal.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Andrew McCutchen is still a Pirate, but that could change now that Mark Melancon and Chris Sale will not be Nationals.

The Red Sox made the biggest move of the offseason on Tuesday, acquiring former White Sox ace Sale for a haul of top prospects. On Monday, the Giants jump-started the run on closers by signing Melancon, the former Pirate, to a four-year, $62 million deal.

What does that have to do with McCutchen? Melancon and Sale were rumored to be two of the Nats' three biggest targets at the Winter Meetings, taking place within range of their home ballpark and fans. The third star they hoped to add? McCutchen, Pittsburgh's franchise player and its most intriguing tradeable asset.

Hot Stove Tracker

Washington targeted Sale, a singularly intriguing pitcher, despite their already-impressive rotation depth. General manager Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday that the Nats will move on after their pursuit of Sale and acknowledged that McCutchen is still an option.

"He's one of the players that we're discussing," Rizzo said. "We're discussing a lot of different players, lot of different avenues in the trade market, free-agent market. We've got our net wide, and we're looking for any avenue to improve the ballclub."

It comes as no surprise that the Nationals are resetting their sights on McCutchen. They never broke off talks with the Pirates regarding McCutchen, even as the Nats may have focused their attention on Sale over the past few days. Washington was reportedly willing to part with top prospects in their pursuit of Sale, so they may be willing to deal a few of them -- the asking price will be high, but not nearly as steep -- for McCutchen.

The two clubs have been linked for the last week, with the Bucs reportedly hoping to land outfield prospect Victor Robles and a young, controllable starting pitcher like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez or Joe Ross. But the Nationals have still been reluctant to part with top prospects and will not do so easily.

Video: Neal Huntington discusses Andrew McCutchen's future

"The free-agent market, teams are willing to do what they're willing to do; players are looking for what they're looking for," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said on Tuesday afternoon. "In trade scenarios, if you find matches, history tends to say [the market] moves after one of the bigger players comes off the board, but we'll see."

McCutchen is an obvious fit for the Nats, who would like to add an outfielder and move Trea Turner back to shortstop. The Pirates would likely prefer to move Starling Marte from left to center field, and McCutchen is coming off the worst offensive season (.256/24 HRs/79 RBIs) of his career.

McCutchen, 30, has two years of club control left. He is under contract for $14 million next season, and his deal includes a $14.75 million option for 2018. The Pirates have maintained that they don't have to trade him, but they are actively listening to offers for their franchise player in an attempt to reload with young players.

The Nationals aren't the only team connected to McCutchen. The Dodgers are interested and in need of a right-handed hitter, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported. The Rangers, Mariners and Giants have also reportedly checked in.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Dodgers have shown recent interest in Andrew McCutchen, source confirms. @MLB #Pirates

This wouldn't be the first time the Bucs and Nats have made such a trade. In July, when they first discussed deals involving McCutchen, the Pirates sent Melancon -- a pending free agent -- to the Nationals in exchange for young left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.

"If we feel it is the right move for the organization, we go ahead and move forward," Huntington said on Monday. "And when we feel the right move for the organization is to hold the player, we hold the player."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen