Center Field Options For The Nationals

Six days ago, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Nationals are searching for a center field upgrade.  They haven't talked to the Rays about B.J. Upton, but it's unlikely we'll see any significant trades in general until the second half of June anyway.  Which center fielders might be available this summer aside from Upton?  We won't consider those who will be eligible for free agency after the season, other than Sizemore.

  • Angel Pagan, Mets.  Pagan will be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, so the Mets might not consider him their long-term answer in center field. Would Sandy Alderson be open to sending him to a division rival?  He's struggling so far in his second full season as a regular.
  • Marlon Byrd, Cubs.  Brett Jackson, perhaps the Cubs' top prospect, is primed to push Byrd aside soon.  Byrd, 33, is owed $6.5MM next year.  He might not be what the Nationals have in mind.
  • Matt Kemp, Dodgers.  The Dodgers can easily keep Kemp and Trayvon Robinson in the same outfield by moving Kemp to a corner.  I can't picture the Dodgers' ownership situation forcing a trade of Kemp, even if his salary exceeds $10MM next year before he hits free agency.  I could see a new owner agreeing to a mega-extension with Kemp, but if they can't find common ground perhaps he'd become available this winter.
  • Michael Bourn, Astros.  Bourn is a viable trade candidate.  The Scott Boras client is under team control through 2012 and earns $4.4MM this year.
  • Rajai Davis, Blue Jays.  The Jays are light on short-term alternatives without Davis – note that Corey Patterson is starting in center while Davis recovers from an ankle injury.  Still, I expect Alex Anthopoulos to keep an open mind.  Davis' contract will look team-friendly if he starts performing.
  • Julio Borbon, Rangers.  If the Rangers continue to gravitate toward David Murphy in center field and feel good longer-term about Engel Beltre and Leonys Martin, Borbon could be expendable.
  • Aaron Rowand, Giants.  Rowand is having a decent April, taking over in center when Andres Torres hit the DL.  However, the Giants would have to pick up almost all of the $22MM owed to him through 2012 to move him.
  • Grady Sizemore, Indians.  The first-place Indians hope to be thinking about adding rather than subtracting this July.  If things go wrong, Sizemore will be very attractive on the trade market, even though his 2012 option becomes a player option upon a trade.  For that reason, he may not be a fit for the Nationals even if he's made available.
  • Chris Denorfia, Padres.  He continues to play well in a fourth outfielder role, but perhaps he could be had.
  • Felix Pie, Orioles.  Pie is another fourth outfielder type who can handle center.  The Orioles need him around as a center field backup, but they'd have to listen if the Nationals made a solid offer.
  • Chris Heisey, Reds.  Heisey is a cost-effective left field option for the Reds, so he might be hard to pry loose.
  • Charlie Blackmon, Rockies.  The Rockies' #11 prospect could work his way into the right field mix, or the team could consider a trade.
  • Scott Cousins, Marlins.  Cousins ranked seventh among Marlins prospects heading into the season, according to Baseball America.  Right now he's needed by the Marlins as Chris Coghlan's center field backup, and he'll see increased playing time while Logan Morrison is out.  They may prefer to maintain the depth.  The Marlins did deal within the division with the Dan Uggla trade.
  • Mitch Maier, Royals.  Maier has played center field more than anywhere else.  The 28-year-old may have to settle for an extra outfielder job if he remains in Kansas City.
  • Torii Hunter, Angels.  What do the Angels do when Mike Trout is Major League ready?  Vernon Wells is probably immovable, so you have to wonder if they could trade Hunter.  Hunter is only under contract through 2012 though so it's quite possible they make it work without a deal.

As you can see, I can speculate on more than a dozen center field trade candidates.  However, some might not offer a clear upgrade over the Nationals' internal options.  At this point, Bourn and Upton seem like the most likely fits if they become available this year.

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