Why the Nationals Need to Pull Off Justin Upton Trade to Take Next Step in NL

Michael NargiSenior Analyst INovember 16, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Colorado Rockies during the MLB game at Chase Field on October 2, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Rockies 5-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals led all of baseball in wins in 2012, but they had a premature exit in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Nationals have a phenomenal pitching rotation going into 2013, led by Stephen Strasburg. Adam LaRoche, though, might be lured away.

GM Mike Rizzo told Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of SiriusXM Radio that LaRoche is his top priority this offseason. If the two sides are not able to agree on a deal, however, then the Nats starting lineup will lose a bat that hammered 33 home runs and 100 RBI.

The Nats do have the flexibility to move some pieces around in the field in order to fit another big bat in the lineup. More specifically, in the outfield.

The Nationals should be in the running for Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton this offseason.

This is the ideal time to take the chance and make a trade for the slugging outfielder. Although he is coming off of a subpar year, he is still a young player who can have a major impact on the Nationals going forward.

The Nationals would be able to move Michael Morse to first base to make room for Upton and move Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth to left field.

Upton has averaged almost 20 stolen bases per year over the last four seasons. The speed would be an element that Upton could bring to Washington that LaRoche does not have. 

Upton is capable of hitting 30 home runs and driving in 100 runs as well, but the speed factor might be enough to make the Nationals an even more dynamic team next season. That element could result in the Nats being serious championship contenders.

Upton is only 25 years old, and he has a long career ahead of him. If LaRoche is re-signed, then Upton's opportunity to play for a contender in D.C. might not come to fruition. If LaRoche signs elsewhere, however, there is a spot for Upton in Washington.