After engaging in occasional trade discussions involving B.J. Upton for about a year, the Nationals and Rays have seemingly reached a point where talks have stagnated. Barring a blow-them-away offer from the Nationals, the Rays appear content to begin the 2012 season with Upton in their outfield.

“There’s not a whole lot of motivation at this point to try to move him,” one person familiar with the Rays said. “They proved that they could win this year when nobody thought they could. Why not try it again?”

The Rays tendered Upton a contract Monday night, and he stands to make about $7.5 million through arbitration. For the small-market Rays, that’s a large hunk of their payroll. So, despite signs they want to keep him, a trade should not be ruled out.

The Nationals have spent a good portion of their offseason meeting with teams and discussing trades for a center fielder. They focused on several potential targets but found a market that richly values a rare commodity like a young, everyday center fielder. The Twins and Angels made Denard Span and Peter Bourjos effectively off limits, respectively.

Potential trade partners could change their stance as the season moves closer. The Twins, for example, might be more willing to budge on parting with Span – or Ben Revere – after their reported signing of former National Josh Willingham and adding him to their outfield.

But for now, the Nationals are having difficulty finding a partner willing to make a trade that suits them. Their fallback option will come when Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes officially becomes a free agent. If the Nationals do not land a center fielder, they would feel comfortable moving Jayson Werth to center.

In other news: Here’s our story from this morning’s paper on the Nationals’ chances to land Yu Darvish and the factors they have to weigh before today’s 5 p.m. deadline to submit posting bids. What I found interesting was, the posting fee – expected to end up somewhere around $50 million – must be paid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in one lump sum. No installments. The team that wins the bid must be liquid, and the Lerner family, by all accounts, is.


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