B.J. Upton’s Trade Value

There are rumblings about a B.J. UptonCliff Lee deal, according to Peter Gammons (via Twitter). That doesn't mean the Rays are going to trade their center fielder, but we do know this: Upton has seen his name in the lineup less than usual since he loafed after an extra base hit ten days ago. Let's evaluate the 25-year-old's value and explore some possible trade partners for the Rays, who do not shy away from blockbuster deals.

Upton is hitting .228/.321/.399 this year with 24 steals in 30 attempts. That's not bad for a center fielder, but Upton's defense appears to have fallen off (even disregarding last month's episode). He has been below-average on defense, according to UZR/150, an advanced defensive metric that suggests Upton was better than average in 2008-09. Even though his strikeout and walk rates are similar to his career averages, Pitch f/x data shows that Upton is swinging at more pitches than ever, especially ones out of the strike zone.

The Rays have Upton under contract for $3MM this year and under team control through 2012. Unless he is non-tendered or signs a long-term deal, Upton will get raises through arbitration in 2011 and 2012. The Rays have a cheaper option at Triple A Durham; top prospect Desmond Jennings is hitting .296/.371/.423 with 20 steals in 22 tries. He has just one homer, but appears ready for the majors.

The Rays have a number of possible suitors for Upton, who is still young, talented and cheap enough to have considerable appeal:

  • The Mariners have Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez locked up, plus Michael Saunders, so Upton doesn't appear to be a natural fit in Seattle. Gammons suggested a third team could be involved if the Mariners and Rays make a Lee-Upton swap.
  • The Braves are looking for a right-handed outfielder and Upton qualifies. 
  • The Padres could use an outfielder and Upton's speed and defensive potential would presumably be a fit in spacious Petco Park.
  • The Giants could upgrade in the outfield. Acquiring Upton would probably mean less playing time for Nate Schierholtz and Aaron Rowand.
  • The Red Sox have seen their best outfielders miss time with injuries, but Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron are under control for 2011 and their fill-ins have played well.
  • The Nationals targeted Upton earlier in the season. Here's an idea, though it's pure speculation: Upton to the Nationals for Adam Dunn, prospects and cash to even out the players' salaries. The Rays need a DH and Nats GM Mike Rizzo said recently that he wants to make his team "younger, better, more athletic."
  • The Royals don't have a long-term option in center field.

It would be surprising to see the Rays trade Upton and there's no indication that they're planning to move him. But if they decide to trade the former first round pick, they should have multiple suitors to choose from.


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72 Comments on "B.J. Upton’s Trade Value"


aap212
5 years 1 month ago

Jack Z has a scouting background and a high tolerance for risk, so while Upton might not naturally fit their needs, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him tempted.

5 years 1 month ago

If Jack Z lands BJ, whats left of the Mariner fan base will give up

5 years 1 month ago

Seriously, are the Mariners trying to set a record as the most dysfunctional team in MLB? Maybe they should go after Jose Guillen and Carlos Zambrano so they have the complete set.

5 years 1 month ago

Why? Because they have ONE “disfunctional” player in their clubhouse with Milton Bradley? AND, Bradley has been pretty damn good in the clubhouse. So, not sure what you are getting at.

oabmarcus
5 years 1 month ago

Quite a few actually:
Ichiro (eccentric guy)
Ian Snell (mental)
Milton Bradley (need i say more?)
Branyan (Cleveland teams were glad that he was gone, played with how many different teams in his career?)
Figgins (a powder keg ready to explode any second now)

5 years 1 month ago

Get him to the Padres to join the other .220 hitters they have

dshires4
5 years 1 month ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Grady Sizemore qualify as a long-term option in center field for the Indians?

East Coast Bias
5 years 1 month ago

Am I overlooking something? I don’t see the Indians mentioned in that post…

5 years 1 month ago

I noticed that too. My news feed said “•The Royals and Indians don’t have a long-term options in center field.” I was thinking Sizemore and Michael Brantley are both long term options. Oddly the article above only mentions the Royals.

Sniderlover
5 years 1 month ago

I think Jays could use Upton. What would it take to acquire him?

dizzle4
5 years 1 month ago

I don’t see that. Our outfield is set with Snider-Wells-Lewis until 2012. Sure, Lewis could become a fourth outfielder with someone who was a substantial upgrade, but as of now, Lewis looks like a stronger hitter than Upton. Sure, Upton’s got infinitely more potential, but for now I don’t see the Jays looking at Upton.

5 years 1 month ago

im not sure i like that particular trade scenario for the Nationals. Even though i wouldnt mind the nats trading for him. Maybe mess around with a couple diff other possibilities. Dunns having a really good year. Upton not so much yet.

jwredsox
5 years 1 month ago

I forget where I read it but it said that Upton’s swing mechanics have been worse than they ever been. He isn’t able to hit power pitchers because his swing is too slow. I think he was hitting like under .150 against power pitchers. And I don’t see the Rays trading within the division when they are in the thick of things.

johnsilver
5 years 1 month ago

Upton has never been the same offensively since he hurt his should nearly 2 seasons ago. His ego has maintained it’s elite levels, as has his overall attitude (poor) and most of the time he seems to play decent defense when he actually feels like it… But that’s the problem most of the time isn’t it? he only plays hard when he feels like it.

JasonHeywardIsGod
5 years 1 month ago

B.J. needs a change of scenerey, lets get it done FRANKY!

JDortmunder
5 years 1 month ago

It’s interesting that Upton is considered a great talent because he looks like one. He isn’t.
Unless you want a major reclamation project I’d stay away from him. About the only good thing you can say is he will have less SO’s than his brother.

jwredsox
5 years 1 month ago

I wouldn’t call him a major reclamation project. He is still only 25 and hit 24hr with a .300 average just 3 years ago. He is a simple issue of swing mechanics. If a team is going to take the time and make him fix his swing he can come back.

Sniderlover
5 years 1 month ago

I think Upton is a great talent but I don’t think he has the mental make-up which is why he hasn’t been able to put it together yet. I’m not sure what the asking price would be but I’m sure it would be a lot even though Upton hasn’t accomplished a lot yet.

Ferrariman
5 years 1 month ago

ur kidding me. he has hit 20HR before and has 50+ stolen base potential. he is still 25 ish and can still put it together.name me 10 other players that can hit 20+ homeruns and steal 50+ bases. go ahead, try.

let me start u off.

jimmy rollins
jose reyes
andrew mccutchen
jacoby ellsbury

not too bad of company eh?

BLB25
5 years 1 month ago

Guys that could? Well in addition to your 4 there’s Carl Crawford, Alex Rios, Ben Zobrist, Ichiro, Chris Young, Grady Sizemore, and Hanley Ramirez. Upton has hit 20+ HR ONCE and that was 3 years ago now. If you look at his yearly stats that one monster year looks very much like an aberration.

Ferrariman
5 years 1 month ago

sizemore has never stolen 40+ bases beforeichiro has never hit 20+ home runs and probably never will with his obsession with batting average and being in SafeCo.hanley, maybe. unlikely, but maybe. and being in a group with alex rios and carl crawfordt isn’t exactly a bad thing either.

also, Chris Young??? really?

BLB25
5 years 1 month ago

you asked for guys that could, not guys that have reached those numbers. Upton has never stolen 50 bases either.

BLB25
5 years 1 month ago

what about being in the same group as Alex Rios, Chris Young and Grady Sizemore because thats much more the group where Upton belongs. Wildly talented young outfielders who are wildly inconsistent and have rarely put together a full year of strong play much less put several consecutive seasons together.

jwredsox
5 years 1 month ago

Zobrist stealing 50 bases? Yeah right.

coolstorybro222
5 years 1 month ago

Jacoby Ellsbury won’t hit 20+ homeruns every year. He averages 8 homeruns a year. LOL

5 years 1 month ago

The Rays should trade b.j. upton for cliff lee. wade davis has been too inconsistent in the rotation, and he will be sent down/moved to the bullpen in september. the best thing about this trade though is…..THAT THE YANKEES WONT GET HIM!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYA!!!!

5 years 1 month ago

Davis will be sent down before September… and they should be looking at bringing up Hellickson before a trade for Cliff Lee who by all accounts has no intentions of staying with whatever team gets him… he’s looking for big money and will test the free agent waters for sure… no point in giving up on Upton when a good trade to the Nationals seems like it could fit both teams needs…

5 years 1 month ago

we can give up on upton if we can somehow find a way to resign crawford

Montero1220
5 years 1 month ago

The Yankees will get Cliff Lee. Whether its through a trade or free agency. You can count on that you bandwagon Rays fan. You’ve been a Rays fan since when? 2008? Pathetic. Upton could have had a great career but he is washed up and lost whatever talent he had. He’s just not a hardworker and is a burden to any organization that acquires him. Serious attitude problems and poor work ethic. The evil empire always wins, remember that.

small_ball_13
5 years 1 month ago

Relax on the Lee to yankees rumors, the yankees don’t really have what it takes to aquire lee and it would more then likely be a package around hughes. Upton is interesting and still young lots of guys start a succesful ML career at 25 and he has been succesful in the past with his number falling off more in the past year and a half then anything. Speed and fielding should almost always be there if his head is in the game. But that explosion shows a lil frustration. The rays would be smart to deal him now, because around the league I feel like he is still valued higher then most common place fans put him on it. And the mariners will trade lee setting aside a miraculous come back because its only shooting them selves in the foot to keep him there paying salery and not reloading with some minor league youth for the future. Yankees are out tho. The yanks are a few injury’s away from being a really bad team because outside of Catching they don’t have many major league ready prospects in the minors.

Yankees420
5 years 1 month ago

I must disagree with your notion that the Yankees don’t have what it takes to get Cliff Lee. Now, I fully understand that Montero is struggling and has been the entire year at AAA, but I would bet money that the Yankees could trade for Lee with Jesus being the centerpiece of the deal. This does not mean that I think the Yankees will try to get Lee, nor do I think they should, considering the fact that the rotation is set for the rest of this season. Also, since when can injuries only be addressed with talent from the minor leagues? I realize that our farm system is middle of the pack, but I’m pretty sure that this team is run well enough to suffer “a few injury’s” and still be contenders.

East Coast Bias
5 years 1 month ago

Great piece, Ben!

5 years 1 month ago

on the other hand, i dont understand how his defense is sub-par. ive watched every rays game this season, and i think he has been stellar. desmond jennings would be quite a replacement in CF though 😉

5 years 1 month ago

Move Saunders to to 1st!!

tmac2795
5 years 1 month ago

If the braves could get Upton cheaply he would be another decent addition to our overstocked outfield. Then we would have an excuse DFA Mclouth as soon as he gets back.

small_ball_13
5 years 1 month ago

Upton doesn’t solve any problems. Blanco will hit better steal almost as many bases, he is just appealing because he is a right handed bat. I don’t think that qualifies in Wrens book to give up what the rays will want.

East Coast Bias
5 years 1 month ago

I wonder if the Ms would rather have Jennings than Upton, if the two teams were to talk.

BLB25
5 years 1 month ago

theyd be crazy not to. Jennings is younger, cheaper, under team control for much longer and probably already better.

garlick
5 years 1 month ago

You think Tampa would be interested in an Upton for Yunel swap??

Could be a change of scenery for both that could work.

Brv Rocks
5 years 1 month ago

That would be a horrible deal for the Braves. Even though Yunel is struggling at the plate he is still one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball. Also, they have no young shortstop who could replace him.

I would love for the Braves to get Upton, but not if they give up Yunel to get him.

garlick
5 years 1 month ago

It would be about even trade, as far as hitting goes for both. Bobby has never really liked Yunel’s attitude, as was alluded to in the article about the Braves open to trade talks with him.

Really, you would be swapping guys that are on even footing when it comes to talent & time of control for both teams.

As for Atlanta’s fill in, Diory Hernandez is back in AAA, and could be a good fill in that would give Atlanta about as much offensively as Yunel had this year.

Yunel’s defense is also not as good as it’s cracked up to be. He takes too many routine plays off, and his UZR’s have been negative since he got into the league. He’s really more replaceable than he’s made out to be.

5 years 1 month ago

And Yunel Escobar would play on the Rays?

Bartlett and Zobrist are a very formidable duo at the Shortstop position.

garlick
5 years 1 month ago

Zobrist is a second baseman, right fielder. He hasn’t played SS since last year, and even then he only played 18 games there.Bartlett is a descent SS, and maybe we just swap SS & and outfielder, so Upton & Bartlett for Escobar, Diaz or Melky & one of our lower level arms.Could be interesting, although I doubt that all happens. It was more just a passing thought.

small_ball_13
5 years 1 month ago

good idea but we neeeeed a long term solution at short if we deal Yunel. No one in the minors are anywhere near ready.

bjsguess
5 years 1 month ago

A team like the Angels might be interested.

Juan Rivera is playing like crap right now. Hunter should be moving to a corner OF position.

Next year, an OF of Hunter (LF), Upton (CF), and Abreu (RF) would work. Although, if Upton can’t get his power back the Angels would be better off just bringing up Bourjos. He’ll get you an OPS around 750, play plus defense, and can steal 25-40 bases.

laxtonto
5 years 1 month ago

Would Texas be interested in Upton as a long term piece in their OF? Send a few mid-tier prospects to the Rays and then combine those guys with a true headline in Helickson and make the deal with Sea.

5 years 1 month ago

getting rid of Hellickson for a 3 month rental of Cliff Lee is absurd… on top of that you want to send prospects with Hellickson for a rental? Like Montero said up top.. Lee will be with the Yankees next year, one way or another… no point in getting Lee, unless they are getting some longer term option at 1st base with him…

jwredsox
5 years 1 month ago

Unless the Rays feel this is their best shot at a title. In which case they should go for it

East Coast Bias
5 years 1 month ago

Lee will definitely test free agency when time comes, however, if the Rays do land him even as a rental, you gotta think they become the automatic favorites to win the championship this year. Is it worth it? Many people would say so.

5 years 1 month ago

The Rays have other young pitchers/prospects that could be included instead of hellickson… hell even Wade Davis might be appealing in a bigger park/friendlier division… Hellickson is not some A Ball player with high upside… hes at AAA right now dominating… and he should be in the majors. getting lee would be great and would give them a huge upperhand at the WS when playoff time comes… but the team is still so young and to mortgage part of that future where there could be a couple WS titles for a 3 month rental for NOW is dumb IMO…

laxtonto
5 years 1 month ago

Don’t forget that it is a forgone conclusion that the TB will slash approximately 20 to 25M in payroll this off season. I am curious how with arbitration raises coming that the current team can be held together for another go. This is probably the end of this window for TB and the next one will probably open in 3 or so years. Either go for it now and risk failing or do nothing knowing that they squandered their last shot for a while.

BLB25
5 years 1 month ago

The Mariners would be crazy to swap Lee for Upton, they should be able to get much more value than that.

55saveslives
5 years 1 month ago

Less time for Rowand?? I’M IN!!!!!