B.J. Upton: Why Tampa Bay Rays Should Not Trade Center Fielder

Yossi FeinsContributor IIIJune 15, 2012

Over the past few years, B.J. Upton's name has been subject to countless trade rumors. It seems like every time the trade deadline or offseason approaches, one big question remains: Will the Tampa Bay Rays deal Upton?

The MLB trade deadline is now just a little over a month away, which means the Upton trade talk will soon begin to flare up again. Although an Upton trade is definitely a possibility, I don't think the Rays will deal him.

One thing's for sure—Tampa is in it to win it this season. The Rays are confident they have a team that has what it takes to go all the way in October. Trading away one of their key pieces would not make a whole lot of sense, even considering the circumstances regarding Upton's contract.

Although Upton has underachieved and hasn't really met expectations in the last few years, a more extensive look clearly shows how vital he is to the team's success.

Last year, he finished top three on the team in RBI, wins above replacement (WAR) and home runs. In addition, he led the team with stolen bases (sparking a huge part of the Rays' game) and provided the Rays with security by playing consistently good defense in center field.

His stats overall were not All-Star numbers, but the offensive production he provides to a lineup with limited power bats is absolutely crucial, which is what makes him more of a valuable player than his numbers show.

So why would the Rays trade B.J. Upton?

Well, there obviously are credible reasons for doing so. Upton will be a free agent next year, and the money he'll be asking for will likely be more than the Rays can afford. The Rays also have a center field replacement for Upton in Desmond Jennings, who seems very capable of taking over at the position.

If the Rays do choose to trade him before the deadline, they'll probably get some pretty good value for the 27-year-old. Upton has had a solid start to the 2012 season, batting .280/.327/.418, which is an improvement from last year's .243 batting average.

The good numbers probably would help Upton's value if the Rays decided to trade him, but it also shows how important he is to the Rays lineup, which will likely not be one of the better ones in October (assuming they make it there).

The Rays can use every bit of offense they can get, and trading a bat away would hurt the team in the short run.

Long-term success is something that the front office always strives for, but we all know that winning a World Series this fall is the team's ultimate goal when it's all said and done.