B.J. Upton was among the many center fielders consistently linked to the Nationals at the trade deadline and the Rays placed him on revocable waivers yesterday, potentially setting up a trade.
However, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post “some Nationals scouts are lukewarm on him, especially at the plate” and “there’s healthy debate within the Nationals about the merits of making Upton their answer in center field.”
And rightfully so. Upton’s defense is excellent, but he’s hit just .235 with a .313 on-base percentage and .396 slugging percentage in 419 games during the past three seasons, including .224 with a .694 OPS this year.
He’s still just 26 years old, but Upton is in line for at least $6 million via arbitration next season and will then be eligible for free agency. Tampa Bay has Desmond Jennings as the heir apparent in center field, so their interest in getting something for Upton before he leaves for nothing is easy to understand. He may not make it to the Nationals on waivers anyway, in which case the current speculation will be moot, but all the Upton-to-Washington rumors figure to come alive again this offseason.
Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.
After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.
With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.