It’s very strange how the Washington Nationals are in the middle of every trade rumor, but never seem to make any trades. They wait until the winter and make stupid free agent signings. (See Jayson Werth.)
The latest object of their pursuits—who won’t be traded to the Nats—is B.J. Upton.
The enigmatic Upton has been on and off the trade block (or part of stories suggesting that he’s on the trade block—true or not—forever). In part because of his on-again, off-again success and attitude; a desire to finally get a long-term contract and be paid like his brother Justin Upton has with the Diamondbacks; has, at various points, had management and teammates wanting to strangle him; and that he’s a free agent after the end of the 2012 season, Upton is a frequent subject of rumors.
With the premium the Rays place on defense and that they’re still in the playoff race, I don’t expect them to trade Upton.
Shields has been excellent this year and is signed through 2014—there’s no real reason to trade him unless they’re blown away by an offer; given Shields’s durability, there’s little risk in hanging onto him and waiting until the winter to make a trade.
With Niemann, he’s had back problems; he’s arbitration-eligible after the season; he’s benefited greatly from the Rays magnificent defense; and he’s not particularly good.
A workmanlike mid-rotation starter is useful enough, but the Rays could replace him relatively easily and his status as a former 1st round draft pick and other clubs not taking the reality of his “success” into account could yield a decent return for a pitcher they’re likely to eventually trade anyway.
Why not do it now when teams are starting to panic?
The Rays aren’t going to give up on the season now; I don’t think they’re trading Upton or Shields; but Niemann? He’s a name to watch as the deadline approaches because it makes perfect sense to get something for him. Now.