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Nationals interested in Rays center fielder B.J. Upton

Jun 6, 2011, 11:51 AM EST

BJ Upton ap

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com speculated back in April that the Nationals’ search for a center fielder could lead them to make the Rays an offer for B.J. Upton and now Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that Upton is indeed “one of their targets.”

Ladson notes that Upton and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have been friends since growing up together in Virginia, but adds that “it’s not known if the Nationals and Rays are having serious discussions” yet.

Upton was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft and has been the Rays’ starting center fielder for five years, but he’s eligible for free agency following the 2012 season and will likely cost at least $6 million via arbitration next year.

Toss in the fact that center field prospect Desmond Jennings is just about MLB ready at Triple-A and the Rays shopping Upton would make some sense. Whether or not the Nationals are willing to meet their asking price is another issue, of course.

Upton has hit just .237 with a .318 on-base percentage and .396 slugging percentage in 354 games since back-to-back strong seasons in 2007 and 2008, but he’s still just 26 years old and ranks among the elite defensive center fielders in baseball.

  1. natstowngreg - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Mixed feelings about this idea. It would be nice to have a real CF for a change. But the Nats would have to give up a great deal — both in prospects and salary — for an underachiever, hoping the light will go on in his head.

    On balance, I’d say, don’t do it.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Ankiel’s #s this year in Center are so beyond hideous that any move at all should at least be considered. It’s bad enough they have an underachieving, overpaid right-fielder. But Ankiel gives a whole new meaning to the word “suckitude”…

    1 HR/8 RBI/.198 BA/.271 OBP/.260 SLG with 146 plate appearances???? Geeze, this has to be the one of the worst lines for an everyday outfielder at this point in the season ever. Adding up the OPS+ for Ankiel AND LaRoche, barely breaks 100(54+49). Ugh.

  3. xmatt0926x - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    How long do you wait for the potential to come back with Upton? The Nats might have a good thing going in a year or so. I wouldn’t ship off a boat load of prospects for Upton. He seems like a guy who’s always going to show flashes of what he could be, only leaving you to keep waiting and waiting for it to all come together.

    • bigharold - Jun 7, 2011 at 2:26 AM

      “How long do you wait for the potential to come back with Upton?”

      That’s a good point but Upton, defensively is excellent. So getting him wouldn’t be a complete waste even if he did not rise to his “potential” offensively. What everybody is waiting for is his offense to catch up , so perhaps if he got out of the AL East he might well develop.

      The good thing is that while he might be expensive to get, the Nats would have a season and a half to test dive him before free agency, (assuming he was traded for before the trade deadline). Unless they have to unload the farm for him, this is a good opportunity. The fact that he’s available, I think, speaks less about him as it does the Rays. I think that we are witnessing the regression that was predicted when they lost a lot of talent after last year. Now the Rays are looking to get ahead of the curve on restocking the farm and rebuilding.

      If he can be had at a “reasonable” price then I I think that it should be done.

  4. spudchukar - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    The one problem I see with this move is that Upton is right-handed. With Morse, Werth, Zimmerman, Desmond, Ramos already hitting from that side that leaves only Nix, LaRoche, and switch-hitting Espinoza swinging lefty. The offense is there, when healthy, to support Upton’s play in CF, and it would still be an upgrade offensively, but they are going to need some southpaw swatters somehow.

    • b7p19 - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:48 PM

      There is a Lefty named Bryce Harper in their system that I hear is pretty good. CFer’s are hard to find, so If I’m possibly looking at a Harper, Upton, Werth outfield in 2 years I’m a happy Nats fan. Add that to Zimmerman, Espinoza (who I like as a better than average guy), and Ramos and it looks like a pretty good start. To me the Lefty/Righty thing is simply tiebreaker. I really like where that team is headed.

  5. henryd3rd - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Upton needs a change of scenery; because he seems to have bottomed out in Tampa. Maybe the change would do him some good?

  6. Tim's Neighbor - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    You’d think that the Braves would make an offer on him. They need a CF who can play quality defense and another right-handed stick. Some speed on the basepaths wouldn’t hurt. I’m sure the money is scaring them off.

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