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.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.