Editorial: In a previous article, it was highlighted that pending free agent Juan Nicasio could be a trade chip for the Pittsburgh Pirates at this year’s deadline.
Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio has been dominant for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Nicasio has thrown 39.2 innings so far this year, and he has a 2.50 ERA in those games. His ERA would be even lower if not for two games where he gave up four earned runs each. Outside of his ERA, his best stat is that he is striking out more than a batter per inning, racking up 41 strikeouts in his 39.2 innings. He is doing this all in his walk year, setting himself up for a nice contract come November. With numbers like that and a potential big contract, he will be on the trade block if the Bucs decide to sell.
The first part of trade scenario would be sending Juan Nicasio to the Washington Nationals. The Pittsburgh Pirates linked up with the Nationals at last years trade deadline to help them in the bullpen, so why not do it again? Also, in general, the Nationals’ bullpen ranks dead last in the league in terms of bullpen ERA. Nicasio would be a huge boost to their pen. The first article was about doubling up and sending Nicasio and Watson to the Nationals. However, there is another trade idea that could be revisited if the Pittsburgh Pirates decide to sell to the World Series hungry Nationals.
Andrew McCutchen to the Nationals Still Makes Sense
Last off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Washington Nationals discussed a potential Andrew McCutchen trade at length. However, the Nationals determined the asking price was too high for Cutch, who was coming off the worst season of his career. Instead, the Nationals traded for Adam Eaton who was with the White Sox. Eaton was off to a strong start through his first 23 games, but then he tore his ACL. Now, the Nationals are back to square one in center field. Meanwhile, they have left fielder Jayson Werth on the disabled list for the second time this season. In general, the Nationals could use a player like Andrew McCutchen if they truly are all in for trying to get a ring before Bryce Harper hits free agency after the 2018 season.
So to break it down, with a healthy lineup, McCutchen would play center field with Harper and Werth flanking him. Now the immediate question is, why would the Nationals trade for McCutchen when Eaton will be back next year? Well, Jayson Werth is in his last year of his contract. By trading for McCutchen, the Nationals would pick up his $14.5 million options for the 2018 season and shift him to left field to replace Werth. So a deal for McCutchen would not only help bolster their lineup for this year’s playoffs, but would also give them a more than viable replacement for Jayson Werth.
In the offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates were adamant about the Nationals including top prospect Victor Robles in a deal for McCutchen. The Nationals were unwilling with Cutch coming off a terrible season. Meanwhile, the Bucs were using Cutch’s track record as their selling point. However, when the Nationals refused to include Robles, the Pirates turned down a reported offer without Robles in it. After the rejected offer the two sides went different directions. So most likely the Pirates would look for Robles to be included once more. With McCutchen back to all-star form, having a cheap and controllable option for the 2018 season, and potentially including a quality relief pitcher in Nicasio, the Nationals may fold to the pressure to include Robles.
Once again, it could be difficult to pry Robles off the Nationals. He is considered the best outfield prospect in baseball. As mentioned above, there is a chance that the Nationals would be willing to include him if they truly felt Cutch and Nicasio could take them to promise land this season. If not, the Nationals still have plenty of high-end prospects they could offer. One of those prospects is top 100 prospect Juan Soto. Soto is an outfielder who is playing for the Nationals’ low-A affiliate. Considered one of top international prospect in 2015, Soto has put together a career .353 batting average across the lower minors thus far. Add him with the Nationals’ number four prospect Carter Kieboom (who was covered in the previous article), and that would have to be the start of a package for Cutch and Nicasio.
Will the Pirates deal Cutch?
Now obviously this is all hypothetical. The Pittsburgh Pirates just took two out of three against the Chicago Cubs. They are not completely out of the NL Central race. Therefore, the Pirates may decide against trading their franchise player during the current season. Neal Huntington has said numerous times since last offseason that he will not shy away from listening on any player. If the Nationals come with a package headlined by Robles, Huntington would likley take the deal. However, if he is not blown away by a deal, and is not inclined to throw the season away for a modest return, he will likely hold until the offseason.