The Tampa Bay Rays amazing playoff run came to an end as the once red-hot Florida squad was eliminated in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers this afternoon. As is custom with the Rays, the offseason will likely bring a great deal of changes to the team’s current roster, as general manager Andrew Friedman will look to capitalize on the value of his young veterans and replace them with even younger prospects.
It is well known that the Washington Nationals have courted the Rays over the past few seasons about acquiring center fielder B.J. Upton. Each year those talks have inevitably fell flat with Nats GM Mike Rizzo refusing to shell out the type of players required to land the former All-Star. However this offseason may finally provide the first opportunity for the Nats to have a legitimate shot at prying Upton from Tampa, as the emergence of outfielder Desmond Jennings has made the embattled outfielder expendable.
Upton, just 27, finished his fifth full season for Tampa this year. After two years of regression, which drew the ire of the media and the team’s small fanbase, the outfielder posted his highest numbers since 2008 with a .243/.331/.429 batting line with 21 home runs and 81 RBI. For Upton it was his second best MLB season, but still fell far short of his 2007 breakout performance when he hit .300/.386/.508 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI. Nevertheless, his athleticism, plate patience, and power potential make him an attractive solution for the Nationals who desperately need a starting outfielder to add next season.
Evan Brunell of CBS Sports suggests that the Nationals would be able to trade for Upton by giving up starting shortstop Ian Desmond and reserve outfielder Roger Bernadina. Desmond would fill a major hole for the Rays in the infield, and his athleticism and versatility would fit in well in Tampa. Washington on the other hand may be flexible on dealing Desmond after an up-and-down 2011, as well as the emergence of other infield options up the middle such as Steve Lombardozzi and Anthony Rendon.
- B.J. Upton:.243/.331/.429, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 82 R, 36 SB, 4.1 fWAR
- Ian Desmond:.253/.298/.358, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 65 R, 25 SB, 1.4 fWAR
- Roger Bernadina: .243/.301/362, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 40 R, 17 SB, 0.8 fWAR
If the Nationals were to complete such a trade, the team’s outfield in 2012 would likely boast Michael Morse in left, Upton in center, and Jayson Werth in right. Rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa would probably then cross the bag to play his native position at shortstop, and a combination of Steve Lombardozzi, Matt Antonelli, and Brian Bixler would fill in at second until Anthony Rendon is major league ready.
Offensively, Upton would provide a huge boost, even with his struggling numbers of the past several seasons. While his .331 OBP isn’t anything to sneaze at, it’s far better than Desmond’s .298, and he could serve as a legitimate leadoff option for Washington.