Why should the Washington Nationals trade for B.J. Upton? I’ll give you 10 good reasons.
1. The Nationals need a long-term center fielder
We can all pretend that Roger Bernadina is going to blossom, but even a Bernadina in bloom is only likely to give us a .280-.340-.420 line.
And that’s with a four-year average UZR/150 of -18.3, meaning he’s given up 18.3 more runs than average due to poor defense.
2. He’s good defensively, something the Nationals under Rizzo are emphasizing
Over the past five seasons, he’s had an UZR/150 of 4.1.
3. Even when he’s not hitting—and let’s be honest, his .240-ish batting average over the past two seasons has been poor—he still has strong enough secondary skills to help you win
His .188 isolated slugging percentage this year is in the top 50 in all of baseball, ahead of Joey Votto (.183) and similar to Alex Rodriguez (.190).
His base-stealing is also excellent, as his 40-plus SB in each of the last three seasons attests. All of this adds up to a 111 wRC+ in 2010 and a 114 wRC+ in 2011, indicating that he is producing above-average offense as compared to the rest of the league.
5. He’s a popular player
Yardbarker uses Google results as a quick estimator of this, and B.J. Upton has 1,130,000 results.
By comparison, Ryan Zimmerman has 1,810,000 results, Livan Hernandez has 1,090,000 results and Tyler Clippard has 337,000 results.
Should the Nationals trade for B.J. Upton?
6. He’s just turning 27 this season
He was selected second-overall in the draft and widely expected to be a superstar player. In fact, he has put up two All-Star caliber seasons (2007 and 2008). So he has the potential to be great.
7. Getting traded to a new team is often a wake-up call for a player
As the cliché goes, sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery.
Living closer to home and playing with a friend are just the sort of intangibles that can help someone who is struggling relax more and perhaps get back to playing like a star.
8. The Rays have uber-prospect Desmond Jennings waiting in the minors
Because their budget limitations are a lot tighter than the Nationals, they’re more likely to want to go with the young, cheaper player and to trade Upton away before he gets expensive.
9. Adding talent attracts talent
In the past, players have avoided signing with the Nationals because they are seen as a poor team. Even if they have come, they’ve had to be bribed with exorbitant incomes (Jayson Werth).
Adding a proven player signals a desire to be competitive.
10. The Nationals need a leadoff man
Bill Ladson recently tweeted their leadoff slash line as .203/.270/.306. Upton has the speed to lead off and would certainly improve on that line.
B.J. Upton is considered by some to be a frustrating player. He has the potential to be an All-Star, and yet he can’t seem to keep his batting average high enough to attain that status.
But even if he remains the same kind of player he is today—talented but not a star—he will still contribute.
His lowest WAR total in four full seasons is 2.3—worth $10.2 million in salary, according to fangraph estimates. Last season, he hit only .237, but on the strength of all the other aspects of his game, he was worth 3.9 WAR—making him the 12th best centerfielder in the league.
By comparison, our centerfielder last season, Nyjer Morgan, was worth only 1.0 WAR—good for 25th best in the league.
By adding Upton, the Nationals will be adding wins.