TODAY: The report on Blackmon “is not accurate,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said this morning in an interview with 106.7’s The Sports Junkies (via 106.7’s Pete Medhurst, on Twitter).
YESTERDAY: The Nationals are showing interest in Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). While it’s not yet clear whether Colorado will deal the center fielder, we heard recently that the club was open to fielding interest on players such as Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez.
It’s not difficult to see the connection here, as Washington has received marginal production out of center fielders Ben Revere and Michael Taylor. Both are controllable for 2017 — Taylor for much longer — but neither have performed to expectations, leaving the Nats with a unit that is playing at replacement level on the year.
The Nationals recently gave top shortstop prospect Trea Turner some time at center at the Triple-A level, and he is currently on the big league roster, but it doesn’t seem that he’s the first choice at present. Otherwise, the organization seems mostly set in terms of its lineup, with the bullpen representing another key area of need.
Blackmon, who just turned 30, is performing at career-best levels. Even after adjusting for the effects of altitude, his .305/.368/.481 batting line checks in at a 110 wRC+. While his glove has never rated particularly well up the middle, that could be due in part to playing at Coors. Plus, strong baserunning helps to make up any lost value in the field.
As a controllable asset, Blackmon won’t come cheap. He’s playing on a $3.5MM deal this year and is eligible for arbitration for two more seasons to come. Though a hefty raise is surely in the cards, Blackmon will no doubt remain quite affordable for a solid, everyday player.
If it’s easy to see why the Nationals would open talks on Blackmon, it also isn’t tough to guess at what the Rockies might target in return. Colorado has been stockpiling young arms, and could certainly look to further bolster the pitching ranks. Baseball America’s just-released, updated prospect ranking for the Nats includes several notable hurlers. Lucas Giolito is surely unavailable; it’s less clear whether that’s the case with regard to high-upside youngster Reynaldo Lopez, though he is now set to make his big league debut as well. Other names that could hold appeal include Erick Fedde, A.J. Cole, and Austin Voth. It seems fair to note, too, that the addition of a new center fielder could make Taylor expendable; other organizations might like a crack at refining his obvious talent.