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.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.