4 Teams That Could Give B.J. Upton the Fresh Start He Urgently Needs
To paraphrase one of Winston Churchill's most well-known statements: B.J. Upton is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
There isn't a player in the game who has as many tools as Upton: he has power, speed, good instincts, plays excellent defense and, by all accounts, should be hitting for a high average on a yearly basis.
Yet since his rookie season in 2004 where he posted a batting line of .300/.386/.584 with 24 home runs, 82 RBI and 24 stolen bases, Upton has, by all accounts, regressed.
Since then, an average season for the 28-year-old has been a .248/.330/.413 batting line with 17 home runs, 67 RBI and 39 stolen bases.
Why the massive drop-off in production?
Aside from the injuries that he's battled, Upton's work ethic has been questioned, with some people believing that he does not go "all out" on every play.
Whatever the reason, two things are for sure: B.J. Upton is going to leave Tampa Bay as a free agent this winter, and where he decides to call home next will be the most important decision of his career.
How much he'll fetch on the open market is a subject of debate among baseball insiders. According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, one National League executive says that Upton will get a three-year, $27 million dollar deal while other execs have Upton making between $50 million over four years to $70 million over five years.
One common theme among executives: they were quick to throw out Mike Cameron as a recent comparison of a very talented player who never quite figured it all out.
With all of that in mind, here are four potential landing spots for Upton that not only could prove to be mutually beneficial for both Upton and the team, but that are sure to help him shed the "good but not great" label once and for all.
New York Mets
Stats At Citi Field: 3 G, .500/.533/.857, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1-for-1 SB
The chances of the Mets actually going out and spending money this winter are slim, but on the off-chance that the Wilpons open the company coffers for Sandy Alderson to bring in pieces, B.J. Upton would be a good place to start.
Upton's speed would allow him to cover a ton of ground in Citi Field's expansive outfield and his power would be a welcome addition to a club that simply doesn't have any.
He would be welcomed as a hero in Flushing and, paired with David Wright would form a potent combination in the middle of the Mets' lineup.
An added benefit of Upton's presence would be far less pressure put on Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, both who have significant run-producing potential but seemed to wilt under the pressure of being "the man" this year.
New York Yankees
Stats At Yankee Stadium: 33 G, .333/.396/.568, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 5-for-6 SB
With the Yankees intent on staying below the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014 and faced with the expiring contracts of Nick Swisher following this season and both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson next year, Brian Cashman will be faced with a number of difficult decisions.
Bringing Upton into the mix could turn out to be a shrewd move, both financially and from a baseball standpoint, though in 2013 at least, Upton would have to play right field, a position he's never played before.
Upton is certainly not going to cost nearly as much to sign long-term as Granderson will, not to mention that he's three years younger than the current Yankees' center fielder and a superior defensive player—so bringing him in this winter with an eye towards sliding him over to center field in 2014 makes sense.
Hitting in a lineup as deep and potent as the Yankees have coupled with his success over a small sample size at the new Yankee Stadium, there's no reason why B.J. Upton couldn't become a .275 hitter who puts up 30/30 seasons on a regular basis.
While it sounds as ridiculous to write as it undoubtedly sounds to read, B.J. Upton could thrive in relative anonymity playing in the Bronx as a small fish in a big pond.
San Francisco Giants
Stats At AT&T Park: Has never played there.
As we approached the trade deadline in 2011, ESPN's Buster Olney opined that B.J. Upton was a perfect fit for the Giants, specifically because of his defensive acumen and ability to cover huge swaths of ground.
As we approach this coming offseason, the fit between Upton and the Giants still exists, though it's not necessarily in center field, at least not at first.
Let's assume that Angel Pagan stays with the Giants for another season. Upton could be signed as the right-handed bat that the Giants have desperately needed all season long and fill the gaping hole that is left field.
Upton could hit anywhere between second and seventh in the Giants lineup, and his combination of power and speed—his ability to turn line drives down the line and into the outfield gaps into extra-base hits—would work well with the run producers who hit behind him, namely Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.
Stats At Rangers Ballpark at Arlington: 31 G, .333/.408/.579, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 6-for-10 SB
Should Josh Hamilton sign elsewhere, the Rangers will have decisions to make in center field. Give the job to a youngster, such as Craig Gentry or Leonys Martin or go out and use the money saved by not re-signing Hamilton to sign his replacement?
After Hamilton, Michael Bourn and Upton are the next best available center fielders and of the two, Upton is the younger one with more power while Bourn is the more established hitter with better defense.
As with the Yankees, Upton could thrive hitting in the deep Rangers' lineup and playing half of his games in Arlington. He'll never eclipse Hamilton's run producing acumen or power numbers, but the defensive upgrade and ability to cause havoc when he gets on base makes him an intriguing option in Texas.
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