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Washington Nationals' Center Fielder Search Continues, B.J. Upton Mentioned...Again.

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When FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal first mentioned the Washington Nationals' interest in acquiring a center fielder, back on April 17th in an article entitled, "Nationals: Seeking help in center", the bow-tied reporter cited the fact that the Nats had the NL's 14th best OPS, had a player in center, in Rick Ankiel, "...who profiles more as a platoon player against right-handers than a regular," and only one real alternative, Roger Bernadina, about whom their was a difference of opinion amongst team officials, as the reasons behind team's continued search. "In a perfect world," Mr. Rosenthal wrote, "they would acquire the RaysB.J. Upton," but he wouldn't be available unless Tampa Bay fell out of the race in the AL East...

Upton's childhood connection to the Nats' Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, (they played together as teenagers) and the fact that D.C. GM Mike Rizzo had drafted B.J.'s brother Justin in his role as the D-Backs' Director of Scouting before joining the Nationals, helped this rumor along, as did the fact that the Nationals reportedly had a scout in Tampa Bay around the same time watching Upton, but as MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote at the time, in an article entitled, "Nats not currently interested in acquiring Upton", though the team had scouted the Rays' center fielder, "...it was routine scouting that is normally done during the season."

With the Nationals now dead-last in OPS from their center fielders (.591 behind the NY Mets at 15 and .656 and well-below the NL-average .730 OPS), and with Ankiel hitting .200/.268/.262 and Bernadina currently at .240/.290/.330, the search for a center fielder has once again intensified. MLB.com's Mr. Ladson wrote earlier this week, in a blog post entitled, "Nats looking for center fielder, leadoff hitter", that the Nats wanted a center fiedler who could also serve as a leadoff hitter, "... according to a baseball source, who also said the club is willing to overpay to get what they want."

With the NL's worst OPS in center and the Nats' leadoff hitters having contributed a combined .202/.252/.306 slash so far this season, it makes sense to attempt to fill both needs with one player, and as MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports this morning, they do think the Rays' center fielder could fill that role. In a blog post entitled, "Nats continue to have interest in Upton", Mr. Ladson writes that, according to his sources, the Nationals consider Upton, "an excellent defensive center fielder" who's having a bad year, and, "according to the source, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo believes a change of scenery would help Upton’s career."

Ivan Rodriguez, Todd Coffey and Jason Marquis' names have often been mentioned as ones the Nationals could consider dealing this season. Marquis, in particular, gets a mention this morning in Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo's Sunday "Baseball Notes" column, which this week lists players you might see dealt in the "Updates on Nine" section, including the Nats' right-hander, who's in the second year of a two-year deal. Mr. Cafardo writes that, "The Nationals would make him available, but only if they get good young talent back," and mentions 24-year-old outfielder Boston Red Sox' outfielder Josh Reddick as an option for Washington to consider.

Nyjer Morgan didn't last. Rick Ankiel was never more than a stopgap regardless because of his age. Roger Bernadina's still yet to seize the opportunity (and everyone loves him in left, I hear.) The Nationals have been linked in the most recent mock drafts to high school outfielder/pitcher Bubba Starling...but they need more immediate assistance in center and at the top of the order, and unless Corey Brown improves dramatically and quickly or Eury Perez's development skyrockets it isn't coming from within the system.