B.J. Upton salutes the fans in what could have been his last home game as a Ray on Oct. 3 against the Baltimore Orioles
Coming off yet another premature postseason exit, the New York Yankees figure to be active players in this year's deep pool of free agents. Talks of Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke in pinstripes are going to excite any fan of the Bronx Bombers; however, B.J. Upton is the free agent many fans truly want in New York.
Ever since he entered the league at 19 years of age, B.J. Upton has been a prime target for general managers across Major League Baseball.
But as the longest-tenured Tampa Bay Ray, the infinitely talented center fielder has been off limits for nearly a decade.
Well the time has come.
And the man some call "Bossman Junior" is finally eligible for free agency.
Still just 28 years old, the dynamic outfielder will likely command a lofty price tag for his eventual suitor. And a breakout season in 2012 revealed that Upton possesses the power to complement his above average speed and superior outfield arm.
Questions still linger as to whether or not the former Ray can put it all together. The potential for a five-tool superstar is there, but Upton has yet to turn in a single complete season.
Many believe the Yankees could aid him in his development and improve his overall production.
If such ideas turn true, who knows how deadly New York's lineup could ultimately be.
Should the Yankees aggressively pursue B.J. Upton?
Here are a couple reasons B.J. Upton is the free agent Yankee fans really want on their team:
There is a reason Tampa Bay committed its second overall pick of the 2002 draft on B.J. Upton. And a career year in terms of power in 2012 helped display the outfielder's ultimate potential.
Sure, a low batting average and high strikeout totals in recent seasons are a bit concerning. But Upton's .300 batting average in 2007 proves the current free agent is capable of consistency at the plate.
The former Ray should be considered a risk in free agency, regardless. As one of two attractive outfielders on the market, teams will have to pay a steep price for a career .255 hitter.
However, Upton's up-side—a 30 HR-30 SB candidate with one of the game's best outfield arms—makes the reward worth the risk.
Another reason Yankee fans would be pleased to see B.J. Upton in pinstripes come 2013 is for the sheer fact that it takes away from a divisional opponent.
As a player who has killed New York in the past, Upton's absence from Tampa Bay's roster would give Yankee pitching one less threat in the middle of the Rays' lengthy lineup.
In addition, Upton might benefit from the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.
He isn't a lefty, but Upton has been known to go the other way on occasion. And what would be an easy fly ball at Tropicana Field just might leave the park in New York.
It certainly wouldn't hurt his power numbers.
Another key component when considering free agents for the most expensive team in baseball is age. And when you have the opportunity to jump on an immensely talented 28-year-old, sometimes you have to take a risk.
B.J. Upton's early emergence into the big leagues has allowed the center fielder to develop while playing at the highest level. While still under the age of 30, Upton has eight seasons of experience and three postseasons under his resume.
So there is still room for improvement.
One example that lends itself to the argument is Curtis Granderson. After coming over from Detroit with similar strikeout issues, Kevin Long was able to work with the outfielder to shorten his swing and limit the whiffs.
Now, the Yankees possess one of the best power-hitting outfielders in all of baseball.
This isn't to say that New York's acquisition of Upton would indefinitely correct the kinks in his swing. But for a team with deep pockets, it could be worth the risk.