NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The first day of the Winter Meetings brought a new round of rumors around the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen -- and perhaps a new suitor for Pittsburgh's franchise player.
The Dodgers have shown recent interest in McCutchen, MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported Monday morning. The Nationals have been viewed as the most likely landing spot for McCutchen, if the Pirates decide to deal him, but the Dodgers are also a logical fit given their resources and need for a right-handed hitter.
The Dodgers hit .214 with a .623 OPS against left-handed pitching last season, both the lowest marks in the Majors, and McCutchen owns a career .317 average and .952 OPS against lefties. McCutchen declined defensively this past season, but he would not have to play center field with Joc Pederson already in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers have the payroll flexibility to take on McCutchen's $14 million salary and enough young players -- including top prospects Cody Bellinger and Jose De Leon -- to make a deal.
The question, as it's been all offseason, remains: Would the Dodgers be willing to meet the Pirates' high asking price for McCutchen?
"There is an attachment to these players. The challenge comes back to [making] a logical, rational decision for the betterment of the organization," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Monday. "If we feel it is the right move for the organization, we go ahead and move forward. And when we feel the right move for the organization is to hold the player, we hold the player."
The Bucs were reportedly deep into talks with the Nats last week, aiming to acquire outfield prospect Victor Robles and a young, contractually-controlled starting pitcher. No such deal has come together. The Nationals have been reluctant to part with their top prospects, and Washington general manager Mike Rizzo indicated Monday that stance has not changed.
The Rangers also reached out and found the asking price for McCutchen to be too high, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.
The Pirates maintain that they don't have to trade McCutchen, the five-time All-Star and former National League MVP, and they believe he'll bounce back after the worst season of his career. But they do feel it's their responsibility as a small-market club with a limited payroll to consider any offers for players nearing the end of their contracts, like McCutchen.
Given his status and place in franchise history, however, McCutchen is no ordinary trade candidate.
"We're not oblivious to it, but our focus and our goal … is to put a consistent playoff-caliber team on the field as frequently as possible," Huntington said. "There are times where we're going to have to make some challenging moves that, again, may seem counterintuitive to that in the short-term, but in the long-term, should the moves play out the way we anticipate and the way we expect, it will become apparent after time."
So Huntington will continue to listen, and McCutchen will remain a Pirate until the club receives the right offer. It didn't come Monday despite rumored interest from the Nationals, Dodgers, Rangers and a "mystery team" reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
"We're looking forward to finding out who the surprise team is," Huntington said, smiling. "We can't wait."
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.