The Nationals made an effort to sign Justin Upton but came up short to the Tigers, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, adding that with Upton now in Detroit, the Nationals are in pursuit of fellow free agent Yoenis Cespedes. While exact parameters aren’t known at this time, Rosenthal hears that the Nationals have indeed made an offer to Cespedes. The proposed contract is not as lucrative as the one that Upton landed in Detroit, writes Rosenthal, although the mere fact that they have an offer on the table does speak to the sincerity of their interest.
As Rosenthal points out, Cespedes is far from a perfect fit for the Nationals’ roster. Jayson Werth is owed $42MM over the next two seasons, has a full no-trade clause on his contract and struggled with health and on-field production in 2015. Suffice it to say, all of that makes a trade difficult to envision. Bryce Harper, of course, is a fixture in the outfield on the heels of his first National League MVP Award, and the team recently traded for Ben Revere to pair with Michael A. Taylor in center field. Speaking purely speculatively, the Nats could look to trade Revere themselves or move Taylor, considering Cespedes a large enough upgrade to make an unexpected play in that regard. While both Cespedes and Harper are best suited for corner outfield work, Cespedes played quite a bit of center field last season (albeit, with some difficulties), and many scouts believe that Harper is young enough and athletic enough to capably handle center field for a few years.
However, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes, the lack of a clear fit doesn’t necessarily preclude the Nationals from making a splash. The Nats didn’t look like an on-paper fit for Max Scherzer one year ago but still sprung to sign him, pushing Tanner Roark out of the rotation just months after he had turned in a seemingly breakout campaign. GM Mike Rizzo has long prioritized a deep roster, Janes notes, and the team could mix and match with Revere in center and Cespedes in left on days when Werth is out of the lineup (I’ll also point out that Werth has quite a lengthy injury history and is by no means a lock to stay healthy in 2016). Janes also points out that the Nats had interest in Cespedes back in 2012 when he was an international free agent, adding that the team’s current payroll projects to be about $30MM lighter than it was at the end of the 2015 season.
Earlier this week, reports indicated the market for Cespedes was intensifying. To this point, the Orioles have been linked to Cespedes most prominently — at least in terms of their willingness to spend on him — but it’s unclear if they remain in the mix after re-signing Chris Davis. The Mets are said to open to a short-term deal with Cespedes, and the same is said to be true of the White Sox, who just tonight were reported to be maintaining their limit of a three-year term in their pursuit. Late last night, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin threw the Padres into the Cespedes market to some extent as well, reporting that the team is “monitoring” the late development of his market.
Wagner’s piece reports that Washington’s offer to Upton was for less than the six years he received in Detroit, and Rosenthal hears the same. Furthermore, the team also reportedly offered Jason Heyward $200MM earlier this offseason. Clearly, the Nationals are open to, if not actively seeking outfield improvements, and Rosenthal adds that Nationals ownership is “intrigued” by Cespedes. Whether that culminates in an agreement remains to be seen, but the Nationals could take the approach of hoarding as much talent as they possibly can this offseason, then worry about how to maximize said talent in terms of on-field production when the season rolls around.