DALLAS -- Though the Nationals would love to emerge from the Winter Meetings with a new center fielder, their lack of viable options at the position makes that a daunting challenge.
With few appealing choices on the free-agent market, general manager Mike Rizzo has suggested a trade is the most likely avenue toward acquiring a center fielder. But the trade market at these meetings doesn't appear to be much stronger.
Of the three names most often mentioned as possible targets -- B.J. Upton, Peter Bourjos, Angel Pagan -- only Upton is expected to be made available, according to baseball sources.
Bourjos -- a speedy, 24-year-old who excels in the field and is under team control for five more seasons -- fits the Nationals' needs. But a source familiar with the Angels said that club has no interest in trading him, even with top prospect Mike Trout ready to join Los Angeles' outfield.
Despite speculation around the game that Trout's arrival will squeeze out Bourjos, the Angels view Trout as more of a corner outfielder than a center fielder, according to the source. The club is strongly committed to Bourjos as its long-term answer in center field, believing he'll win multiple Gold Gloves during his career and make strides at the plate.
Pagan looked like a possible short-term solution for the Nationals, if the Mets decide not to tender him a contract before Monday's deadline. But a source familiar with New York's front office said that club now plans to keep the 30-year-old, perhaps as its leadoff hitter now that Jose Reyes has departed for Miami.
That leaves Upton, whose name has come up in trade rumors with the Nationals for two years. Rizzo remains interested in the 27-year-old Norfolk, Va., native, but the Rays continue to ask for a significant haul in exchange for him.
Whether Rizzo is willing to concede and give Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman what he seeks in a trade or take his chances that Upton might be non-tendered next week -- it's still unclear what the Rays plan to do there -- remains to be seen.