The trade deadline this year passed without the Nationals landing the center fielder they desired, and they of course have still not landed that center fielder. As that has remained static, so, too has Mike Rizzo’s interest in Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, the 27-year-old who played youth baseball with Ryan Zimmerman and is due a significant raise in arbitration.
The Rays and Nationals talked back in July about a possible swap involving Upton, with shortstop Ian Desmond believed to be among the names the Rays wanted. Rizzo didn’t get specific today, but he indicated the status of the Upton talks with the Rays and GM Andrew Friedman has stayed the same.
“I don’t think anything has changed on that front,” Rizzo said. “We have a comfort level about the players. We know what value we would give up for him.”
The Nationals have had ongoing interest in Upton for some time, which begs the question: What could have changed for the two sides that would make a deal possible now, when the fundamental particulars are still the same? Again, Rizzo did not get into specifics, but he offered an abstract explanation.
“What would be different from previous conversations would be whether there was a change in their scenario or a change in our scenario,” Rizzo said. “Injuries sometimes can cause that. A breakout season from a prospect at that position, now it becomes a position of depth. Those are the kind of things that would change the landscape of the trade discussions from the end of the season until now.”
This is just thinking out loud here: Stephen Lombardozzi reached the big leagues as a call-up in September, and while he didn’t light the world on fire in limited action, Nationals evaluators and decision-makers love Lombardozzi as a player. At the deadline, the Nationals did not want to give up Desmond. Could Lombardozzi’s ascension make them budge?
The Rays have a similar situation with the rise of outfielder Desmond Jennings. After the deadline, Jennings hit .248/.337/.440 with nine home runs. He would be a possible replacement if the Rays did indeed move Upton.
Upton, of course, is not the only potential center fielder the Nationals are eyeing in a trade. Rizzo said the Nationals have considered both experience big leaguers and players on the cusp of reaching the majors, and they spoken with numerous teams. “We’ve got a lot of ideas,” Rizzo said.