BJ Upton, Tampa Bay Rays Head To Arbitration Just $300,000 Apart

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIJanuary 20, 2010

NEW YORK - JUNE 19:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays runs against the New York Mets on June 19, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

While the Rays were able to come to agreement with three of their arbitration-eligible players before the deadline to file, one is headed for the potentially contentious hearing, for a mere $300,000.

Okay, to the average guy, that's a lot of money, but in baseball terms, that's tantamount to a $100 bill.

You have to wonder why it would get to this.

Why would BJ Upton's agent, Larry Reynolds, force his player into arbitration after coming off an "off year" where Upton didn't put up his typical numbers and battled injuries?

Why would the Rays not just give the extra $300,000 to Upton? Is it worth going through a process where the team has to state a case in not-so-gentle terms why he's not worth the money he thinks he is?

Upton made $435,000 last season, and the Rays were offering him a $3 million deal, a significant increase over the rookie contract. Upton, however, demanded the same deal just signed by Matt Garza, $3.35 million.

All-Star Jason Bartlett jumped to $4 million, while reliever JP Howell saw his salary rise to $1.8 million as the Rays signed those players to avoid arbitration.

Howell appeared to be the most likely to head to arbitration, but a late-hour deal avoided the hearing.

"I thought it was going to go to a hearing," Howell said. "It took, literally, up until the last minute. It looked like the (hearing) door was opening."

Still, the victories of securing Garza, Howell, and Bartlett were tempered by the disappointment in the Upton case.

"I'm a believer in this process that when you go to a hearing, both sides lose," Rays Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman said. "And I think both sides are culpable. It doesn't do any good to point fingers one way, or vice versa. The process is in place for a reason. When there's a philosophical difference with the comparable players and how things fall, this is what the system offers.

"As per their club policy, there's no further room for negotiation," Reynolds added. "In fairness to the team, we knew all this in advance. We just simply ran out of time."