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.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.