The Blue Jays have reportedly acquired Colby Rasmus in a three-team deal from the Cardinals, a big trade that indirectly affects the Nationals as they pursue a long-term center field solution before the July 31 trade deadline.
Ramsus was one of the Nationals’ potential targets as they try to upgrade in center field with an eye on the long term. The Nationals remain high on Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, 26, and the Rays have been scouting several levels of the Nationals’ minor league system this week. Despite Upton’s down year in several statistical categories – he’s hitting .227 with a .307 on-base percentage – the Nationals consider him an elite defensive center fielder who can hit for power.
The downside in their minds is that Upton will be under team control only through the 2012 season, at which point he’ll be eligible for free agency, which means he won’t be a long-term solution unless the Nationals sign him to a contract extension.
The trade of Ramsus may also increase Upton’s value on the market. The number of teams looking for a center fielder remains pretty much the same, but one less one center fielder is still on the board. The ones available, then, could command a larger return. The Nationals have also shown interest in Astros center fielder Michael Bourn and Twins outfielder Denard Span.
The Nationals are remaining active as the trade deadline approaches, looking either to sell or buy with future seasons in mind. Even as they’re working on multiple ideas, though, one Nationals official echoed Davey Johnson’s sentiment Tuesday night and said he wouldn’t be surprised if the deadline passes without the Nationals making any major moves.
One reason for that could be the current composition of the Nationals roster. General Manager Mike Rizzo has said he does not want to trade players who he considers part of the team’s core. But outside of those players, the Nationals have few major league pieces that would be in demand. Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez have received some interest, but none of the Nationals’ veterans would be considered a major difference maker if dealt.
To land the center fielder they’re hoping for and to keep their major league core intact, the Nationals may have to dip into their farm system to find a match.