November closes with what is pretty much a guarantee that Andrew McCutchen is traded this offseason. All the big names like Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Passan, and Buster Heyman say so. Among the teams in search of a new center fielder, I’d say the Washington Nationals have the best shot.
Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates and Nationals did talk about a possible trade for McCutchen. Instead, they settled on acquiring closer Mark Melancon. Just because they couldn’t agree on where to dot the I’s and cross the T’s last summer doesn’t mean a trade is impossible now. McCutchen, who had a down year in 2016, is approaching free agency faster than you can say “there’s no chance he gets an extension from the Pirates.” The Nationals, with one of the best farm systems in baseball and a plethora of arms they could trade, pretty much have the pick of the litter. Whether it is McCutchen or Chris Sale, the best player on the trade market this offseason belongs to them.
If Andrew McCutchen is traded, he's probably going to the Washington Nationals.
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I have thought for a while that McCutchen would end up in Washington. Prior to 2016, I would’ve predicted Bryce Harper signs somewhere else following the 2018 season and the Nationals sign McCutchen as a sort-of replacement even if they offer a different style. McCutchen would bring the Nationals star power at a cheaper cost than what Harper would get. Of course, trading for him early could still have this same result as they’d be able to give him an extension or at least convince him to take a hometown discount after he’s amazed by all the free museums in Washington…or maybe not.
Fortunately for the Nationals, pitching isn’t a dire need of the Pirates. They already have Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon as youngsters looking to break into the rotation. Regardless, at least one of their better pitching prospects would need to head to the Pirates in any deal they make for McCutchen. They may even be able to hold onto Victor Robles as his presence really isn’t needed in Pittsburgh with Austin Meadows coming up. Instead, I’d expect Reynaldo Lopez, Erick Fedde, and two more prospects as a package the Pirates may accept. Lucas Giolito will need to be pried from their cold, dead hands for now as he could literally help them win a championship pretty quickly into his career.
Other teams looking at McCutchen include the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. The Rangers are a little shorter on prospects than they were a year or two ago so I’m not really sure they’ll have the ammunition to pull it off. The Mariners’ best young talent plays the outfield so the advantage remains in Washington and their surplus of arms rather than bats.
I saw an article a few days ago, which listed the most untouchable young players in baseball. The background of the piece was about the young players in baseball with the upside to acquire an ace like Chris Sale. I agreed with many on the list such as Andrew Benintendi and Alex Bregman. Then there was Texas Rangers' second baseman Rougned Odor whose presence came as a surprise.
Is Odor really that untouchable in trade talks? Is his potentially really that astronomical?
When I think of Odor I don't see the superstar others do. I value OBP a lot. This ability to draw walks is not a weapon Odor has shown thus far in his brief MLB career. Instead, Odor has made a name for himself with some incredible power.
Is Rougned Odor really among the most untouchable young players in baseball?
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Last year, Odor put up some jaw dropping numbers; and yes I chose my words wisely there. He managed to secure himself 33 home runs over the course of the season. Odor also added 14 stolen bases and another 33 doubles. All of this was great except his slash line was a rather one-dimensional .271/.296/.502. Odor struck out 135 times over the course of his 632 plate appearances while drawing just 19 walks all season long. The lack of plate discipline is somewhat worrisome for a 22-year-old. Drawing walks can help a guy get out of a slump. The inability to do so puts all the pressure on his swing.
OPS+ has become one statistic I look at heavily these days. At 105 last year, Odor actually dropped 2 points from the year previous mostly because of how he failed to get on base regularly. His WAR, another favorite of stat junkies, was a reasonable 2.4. Good yet not great, Odor’s status as untouchable probably has a lot more to do with his age. I think because he never exploded onto the scene like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout we fail to notice how young he really is. The guy is young enough to be the son of some MLB players if they were friskier than your average teenager.
As someone who hit well for average in the minor leagues and stole bases regularly, I do believe we haven’t seen exactly what Odor will become. Untouchable is still a lofty label to put on him, though. So far, Odor has left me not-so-impressed. With any luck, he’ll become more than a young kid swinging for the fences in every at-bat.
Sonny Gray might be a lot more like his last name than first when the 2017 season begins. The Oakland Athletics pitcher is in danger of losing a rather hollowed title: ace. His biggest competition is Sean Manaea, a big left-handed rookie who last year went 7-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 starts and 1 relief appearance over 144.2 innings.
Much like Gray, Manaea comes with some hype. He was a first round pick in the 2013 supplemental round. Perhaps even greater in retrospect, he was one of the guys traded to the Athletics by the Kansas City Royals for Ben Zobrist. As we know now, Zobrist was an important piece in the Royals’ championship run of 2015.
Is 2017 the season where Sean Manaea passes Sonny Gray as the Oakland Athletics ace?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
After what Gray did last year--or didn't do--it's possible we see him dethroned as number one starter in Oakland. I think he'll rebound, but this won't prevent Manaea from pitching better. Listed at 6’5 245 lbs, size is already on his side.
Per RotoChamp and their statistical predictions for next year, Manaea will match Gray with a 3.84 ERA. They’ll tie with a team leading 11 wins with Manaea striking out 163 in 185 innings compared to Gray who will fan 162 in 199 innings of work. Manaea is also predicted to have a better WHIP at 1.19 compared to Gray’s projected 1.25.
Predictions for the coming season a week before the winter meetings are really anyone’s guess. However, are we really foolish to think the chance that they swap spots in the rotation is very much possible?