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Wire Taps: Washington Nationals Weekend Rumors: Center Fielder Search?

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No. 4 on the list of Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo's "Updates on nine" section of his weekly Sunday MLB column, "Baseball Notes", is B.J. Upton. The Tampa Bay Rays' outfielder was linked to the Washington Nationals in rumors last week by FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, who wrote, in an article entitled, "Nationals: Seeking help in center," that the Nats, who, "...rank 14th in the NL in OPS from center field, are searching for potential upgrades," according to "major-league sources" who said that, "In a perfect world, they would acquire the Rays’ B.J. Upton, who hails from the same part of Virginia as Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman."

The Rays, however, as Mr. Rosenthal wrote, "will not entertain moving Upton unless they fall out of contention," at which point more teams than the Nats would be interested. The Boston Globe's Mr. Cafardo's "major league evaluators", however, tell him that they hear that the, "Rays [will be] exploring a deal for Upton if they should fall out of contention, or even if they’re in contention," if they can, "...make a deal similar to the one they made involving Matt Garza, in which they received good talent, including Sam Fuld."

That deal sent the 27-year-old Garza to the Cubs along with LHP Zach Rosscup and OF Fernando Perez for five players: OF Brandon Guyer, RHP Chris Archer, SS Hak-Ju Lee, C/IF Robinson Chirinos and OF Sam Fuld, three of whom, Guyer (no.10), Lee (no. 4) and Archer (no.1) were on Baseball America's January '11 list of Chicago's top prospects. Should they expect the same return for Upton, the 26-year-old outfielder who, in seven major league seasons, has posted a .259/.344/.411 slash line, with a 162-game AVG of 35 doubles, 19 HR's and 40 stolen bases? 

After Upton at no.4, no. 5 on Mr. Cafardo's "Updates on nine", coincidentally, happens to be, "Mike Rizzo, GM, Nationals." The Boston Glove writer says he hears that, "Rizzo is thought to be shopping for a center fielder and/or someone who can add some zest to the Nationals’ anemic offense, which was hitting .218 entering the weekend," and being carried by the strength of the, "...pitching rotation of Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, and Tom Gorzelanny, which allowed three or fewer runs in 15 of their first 18 games." There's no mention of potential targets by Mr. Cafardo, but the report follows close on the heels of last week's rumors.

Mr. Rosenthal wrote then that the Nats believed current center fielder Rick Ankiel, "...profiles more as a platoon player against right-handers than a regular," and were split when it comes to Bernadina and aware of Jerry Hairston's limitations, so, "Expect the Nats to be linked to any and all available center fielders," the FOXSports.com writer said. MLB.com's Bill Ladson, however, followed-up on that report in an article entitled, "Nats not currently interested in acquiring Upton", in which he reported that though, "The Nationals have been scouting Rays center fielder B.J. Upton, according to a baseball source, but the club doesn't have interest in acquiring him right now."

The MLB.com writer's source called it "routine scouting", and, as Mr. Ladson's noted, "pointed out that general manager Mike Rizzo brought Ankiel to Washington and played a major role in Ankiel playing every day." Does that mean the Nationals aren't looking for a center fielder should one become available? There's clearly some scouting going on at all times, and now two sources saying that the Nats are looking...