The Nationals and Pirates have progressed in talks about a trade that would bring star outfielder Andrew McCutchen to D.C., but the two sides haven't yet agreed on the full package of players the deal would require, and the cost figures to be extensive.
Two names that have come up, according to sources familiar with the discussions, are Reynaldo Lopez and Victor Robles, two of the Nationals' top prospects. Even then, one source said the Pirates might not agree to the trade unless a third player was added to the mix.
McCutchen, the 2013 National League MVP and a five-time All-Star, would be a potentially major acquisition for the Nationals. He would provide a power bat in the heart of the lineup, helping break up the left-handed combo of Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, and his presence would allow the club to shift Trea Turner to his natural shortstop position.
But there would be red flags to consider, as well. McCutchen, 30, is coming off a disappointing season in which his batting average fell from .292 to .256, his on-base percentage from .401 to .336 and his slugging percentage from .488 to .430. He also struggled in the field, producing a Defensive Runs Saved rating of minus-28, worst among all major league center fielders.
The Pirates have discussed moving McCutchen to a corner outfield position, and it's possible the Nationals would do the same with him. That, however, would require Harper to play center field in 2017 before both he and McCutchen could play the corner positions in 2018 after Jayson Werth's contract expires.
McCutchen is signed for $14 million in 2017, with a $14.75 million club option for 2018 that can be bought out for $1 million.
The Pirates understandably are asking for a lot in return for McCutchen, and sources said they've held discussions with other clubs, as well. His name did come up in talks with the Nationals in July, but the two sides didn't progress to the point where he would have been included in the eventual trade that brought closer Mark Melancon to Washington for reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.
General manager Mike Rizzo was adamant over the summer that he wouldn't trade any of his top four prospects at the time: Robles, Lopez, Turner and right-hander Lucas Giolito. It remains to be seen if he'll relent now in exchange for McCutchen, but it's highly unlikely Turner would be available after his dominant second half in the big leagues.
Even so, the inclusion of Robles (a 19-year-old outfielder coming off a strong season at Single-A) and Lopez (a 22-year-old who impressed at times in his first big league season) might not be enough to get the deal done, according to sources.
MASNsports.com's Byron Kerr contributed to this report.