Center field was a glaring need for the Washington Nationals before they traded Nyjer Morgan in March, and it remains a glaring need both short and long term.
The Nats are set in right with Jayson Werth, who is signed through 2017. They should be set in left with top prospect Bryce Harper, who could arrive as soon as next season.
Center, though, currently belongs to Rick Ankiel, who profiles more as a platoon player against right-handers than a regular.
The Nats, who rank 14th in the NL in OPS from center field, are searching for potential upgrades, major league sources say.
Club officials are mixed on Roger Bernadina, who is playing every day at Triple-A. Bernadina, like Ankiel, is a left-handed hitter. Jerry Hairston, a right-handed hitter, is capable of playing center but is off to a poor offensive start.
Expect the Nats to be linked to any and all available center fielders. In a perfect world, they would acquire the Rays’ B.J. Upton, who hails from the same part of Virginia as Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
The Rays, though, will not entertain moving Upton unless they fall out of contention. If that happens, the Nats hardly will be the only team interested.
Upton, earning $4,825,000 in 2011, can become a free agent after the 2012 season.
— Ken Rosenthal