The talk around the Nats getting Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates is heating up. Personally, I don't think anything will happen before the Winter Meetings. Why? Because it doesn't really make sense for either team to get the deal done right this second.
The Pirates probably have several prices set in their mind for McCutchen. There's a price they'd love to get, a price they expect to get, and a minimum price they'd take if they had to. In order to get a price closer to the former rather than the latter, it makes sense for them to shop around McCutchen to the most teams possible and the Winter Meetings is a great place to feel out if they've completed that work. Of course the Nats can force the issue by giving the Pirates something close to that "love to get" price. But...
The Nats probably have ideas to about what they'd give up for Cutch. What they'd like to give up, what they will give up if necessary. Right now all they can do is offer roughly what they'd like to and keep ramping it up if it feels like the Pirates aren't going to take it. The Pirates have all the leverage. Go to the Winter Meetings and get a feeling that the market for Cutch isn't that hot and then you've got some leverage and can keep the price low. Sure you risk someone coming in with a better deal, but if you know the other people involved and feel you are very likely to be able to outbid them, waiting makes sense.
So I don't expect a deal to get done until Sunday or after. Sorry. But maybe I'm wrong!
What would I give up for Cutch? I'd go two good prospects deep. I would go Robles and Giolito or Robles and Lopez. But I love Cutch. Something I wouldn't do? Robles and Ross. Do I think Lito and maybe Lopez will be better ML pitchers than Ross... I guess so. But I think with much higher certainty that I know what Ross' floor is and that's still a major league pitcher. I don't mind giving away potential. I do mind giving away actual. Ross himself? Sure. But not with your best offensive prospect.
What about Cutch himself? Contract wise it's a fine grab. He's not super expensive (14 million) and the team has control over a second year (14.75 team option). He's normally worth so much more that even a big drop in stats would be still worth the price. And yet last year he wasn't worth it.
The average dropped but so did the patience. His speed isn't quite there anymore. It may have been a particularly bad defensive year but the general trend is yes, he's not below average in CF. (Which is completely understandable as a guy who at his peak was probably just a bit above average). The only thing that's holding up is the power.
What do the fancy stats say? Is it bad luck? BABIP... a little low for him, even considering a speed drop. However the way he hits' the ball suggests more flyball and fewer hard hit balls. That's a good combination for lowering BABIP. The more flyballs thing has been a several year thing so it's the drop in hard hit balls (and increase in soft hit balls) that is driving this issue. So then we look at swings - is he swinging at worse pitches? Not really - swings on pitches outside the zone is down and contact on these pitches (usually bad contact) is down too. But that's another thing - He's making a lot less contact meaning the K-rate is up. Highest of his career - up four straight year. So if it's not the type of contact is it bat speed? That's not a bad guess.
The gamble on him is then, that he will improve. I'd say there's a pretty good chance he will. The pretty good chance though is not of back to MVP level, just a mild general improvement, the defense won't seem as bad (it bounces around and was particularly low last year), the BABIP might tick up, the K-rate and BB-rate can probably be worked on a little as it doesn't seem to be a recognition issue. If that happen then it's a good chance he'll be worth his contract and that means a good chance he'll be a good player.
Can he be a great player again? That's more of a gamble but it is in the realm of the possibility. Guys have off years for whatever reasons all the time. Some lingering injury, something psychological, some early bad luck rolling into a situation where you are pressing all year long. For example what happened to your own beloved Dusty Baker in 1978?(the 76 was clearly an injury thing) On the flipside can he be terrible? I suppose so. If he continues to decline - let's say more Ks fewer walks and no change elsewhere, then you are just repeating the problems of this year - a non-performing CF at a MUCH more expensive price plus below average defense (though I'd bet you anything that improves from this year).
The potential tipping point though is the fact it would probably be ok if he just stays the same for two more years. Again - let's say D "improves" and offense is same. That's an above average player. This year was a disaster in CF before Turner and while Espinosa has a lot more going for him than people like to admit, he's not an above average player. This would improve the team a decent amount. Sure you can probably get this improvement more cheaply. Sitting on Revere for a year might do it. But you would likely be gambling on that being as high as you get. No chance for the MVP season like you get from Cutch, while probably having the same "this could still be a disaster" floor.
So that's why I lean toward trading for him. And I'd go ahead and do Lopez/Robles and not think twice.