• Subtitle: "Or Wait Until Upton's A Free Agent."
The Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration with 27-year-old outfielder B.J. Upton, agreeing on a $7M dollar deal with their '02 1st Round pick last week that covers the final season before he (potentially) enters free agency. The Rays also signed first baseman Carlos Pena, bringing the left-handed power bat back into the organization on a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo speculated Sunday in his weekly "Baseball Notes" column that Pena's return to the Rays' lineup along with the addition of an outfielder/left-handed bat in Luke Scott, who, "will likely DH most of the time," for Tampa Bay, "... could now accelerate a deal for B.J. Upton to get a shortstop." The Boston Globe writer suggest the Rays could use an upgrade over Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac at short and an everyday catcher since, "... veteran backstop Jose Molina is slated to start."
Does it make any sense for the Nationals to revisit trade talks with Tampa Bay after they once again failed to produce a deal the last time the two sides sat down to discuss a deal at this past December's Winter Meetings? While acknowledging they'd inquired about what it would take to pry Upton away from the Rays, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak, that the talks hadn't brought the two sides any closer than they've been in the past. "'I don't think much has changed when we've talked (about) that specific player,'" Rizzo's quoted stating, "'I don't like to talk about specifics, or hypotheticals but I don't think anything has changed on that front.'"
The Nats' general manager explained that his front office had a clear idea of Upton's value and what they'd be willing to part with in return for the center fielder, (and what the Nationals' have in the organization as far as potential future CFers that could keep them from having to trade for the need) but unless something changed with their own or the Rays' "scenario," the GM said, it didn't seem like anything was going to happen. Having explored the possibilities, the D.C. GM said during a late-December MLB Network Radio interview that the Nats, "... look at the big picture of center field and we see the 2013 free agent class at center field is much stronger than it is for the 2012 season." Upton figures to be part of that free agent class.
The Nationals believe they can run Jayson Werth out in center after having experimented with the 32-year-old out there late last season. "We know Jayson [Werth] can handle the center field position," Rizzo told reporters in a conference all this winter. "It's not a perfect world for us. He's a good defender out there. He's ready, willing and able to take on the responsibility to play center field, but we recognize that we need a true gliding, defensive, rangy center [fielder] out there in a perfect world."
Tampa Bay Times' columnist John Romano argued earlier this winter that the changes to the CBA involving compensation for departing free agents could make the Rays more willing to trade Upton this winter since the compensatory picks they would have received in the past if the outfielder leaves Tampa Bay are not assured as they were under the previous agreement. The only way they'd get draft picks now is to offer the 27-year-old outfielder, who'll turn 28 in August, "... a one-year deal equal to what the top 125 highest-paid players make, which is currently around $12 million." If the Rays knew he'd get a multi-year deal from another team, they could offer the one-year deal, "But if Upton has a subpar year, the Rays aren't going to offer him the $12 million out of fear he will accept it."
Knowing they could run Werth out there, with Bryce Harper (or another outfielder, ok) in right with Michael Morse in left this season and then sign a prototypical center fielder next winter for nothing but cash without losing picks, why would the Nationals part with the major-league ready shortstop or catcher the Rays want? When trade talks took place this past July, ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote in an article entitled, "Daily Rumble: The Carlos Beltran market", that when the Nats and Rays talked before, "...there are indications [the Nationals] balked at dealing two pitchers the Rays are believed to have asked about: Ross Detwiler and the much-coveted Brad Peacock." Peacock's gone, traded to the A's of course, and there's less depth amongst starters in the Nats' organization after they traded three pitchers in that deal. Ian Desmond's name's come up before as a player that might be available in spite of what the Nats say publicly? Jesus Flores? Jhonatan Solano? Any of this make sense for Washington?