Nationals interested in Rays center fielder B.J. Upton

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Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com speculated back in April that the Nationals’ search for a center fielder could lead them to make the Rays an offer for B.J. Upton and now Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that Upton is indeed “one of their targets.”

Ladson notes that Upton and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have been friends since growing up together in Virginia, but adds that “it’s not known if the Nationals and Rays are having serious discussions” yet.

Upton was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft and has been the Rays’ starting center fielder for five years, but he’s eligible for free agency following the 2012 season and will likely cost at least $6 million via arbitration next year.

Toss in the fact that center field prospect Desmond Jennings is just about MLB ready at Triple-A and the Rays shopping Upton would make some sense. Whether or not the Nationals are willing to meet their asking price is another issue, of course.

Upton has hit just .237 with a .318 on-base percentage and .396 slugging percentage in 354 games since back-to-back strong seasons in 2007 and 2008, but he’s still just 26 years old and ranks among the elite defensive center fielders in baseball.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.