The Nationals' search for a center fielder has the team eyeing B.J. Upton, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. According to Ladson's source, Nats GM Mike Rizzo believes that a change of scenery could help the Rays outfielder, whose 2011 slash line of .228/.324/.389 ranks below his career rates.
We heard in April that the Nationals were scouting Upton, but weren't considering a trade at the time. Since then, center field has become a more glaring need for the club. For the season, their internal options have combined to post a .591 OPS in 253 plate appearances at the position.
With the Rays in the thick of the AL East race, it's not known whether Upton will be available this summer. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the Rays could consider an Upton trade even if they're contending, while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports said the team would have to fall out of the playoff hunt before exploring deals involving the 26-year-old. Ladson reported last week that the Nationals are "willing to overpay" to acquire a center fielder, in which case the Rays would at least have to listen.