MLB Trade Deadline 2011: 5 Teams That Have Their Eyes on BJ Upton
There has been a lot of talk about relocation of outfielder and offensive powerhouse Carlos Beltran, and with the free agent market being relatively sparse this year, many teams have rejoiced at the new opportunity to obtain another talented outfielder before the deadline.
BJ Upton, at only 26 years old offers premier defensive skills in the outfield, and has developed into the increasingly popular five tool player.
Upton has been quite impressive with his bat this season as he is on pace for career highs in home runs, and RBI, in spite of the fact that he still posts a rather pedestrian batting average of .229.
While he still maintains his defensive prowess, and base running abilities, if he can continue hitting with the kind of power that he has demonstrated in 2011, and develop the plate presence needed for him to raise his average to a number that matches the rest of his stats, which most believe is within reach with Upton entering his prime, Upton could potentially become one of the majors' top outfielders.
With this being said, here are five teams who would put their faith behind the developing talent of the older Upton brother, and who could look to acquiring him before Sunday rolls around.
The Phillies have what many would call a World Series calibre team, and are made up of enough stars to create their own all star lineup.
This would prove to be an ideal place for Rays' outfielder BJ Upton to relocate for a number of reasons.
BJ Upton has been relied on in Tampa Bay not only to become a star, but to become a team leader.
This is where problems arise, as BJ Upton is clearly very different from his brother Justin in that respect in that he is not meant to lead a team, but rather to flourish as a star among other star players, without the constant criticism of not being an adequate leader to his teammates, as it is in Tampa.
Looking at the Rays, one can pretty easily see that Evan Longoria is much better suited to be the team's leader.
the Philadelphia Phillies offer an environment with veteran talent not only in the outfield, but all around the clubhouse in guys like Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, and Jimmy Rollins, all of whom can help Upton improve his plate presence, and thus his average and on base percentage.
Upton could finish the season playing centre field with Victorino moving over to right field, and with the aging Ibanez' career winding down, eventually take his spot creating an outfield of Upton, Victorino, and Domonic Brown; an outfield that would rival the best in the majors.
Although it is not vital for the Phillies to make a run at Upton, as i've mentioned the star quality that their team already possesses, he offers a valuable skill set, and "Friedman and Amaro trying to work out a deal for Upton", as Jen Royle Tweeted yesterday, would certainly solidify their chances at another World Series appearrance.
San Francisco Giants
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The Giants can be considered one of the leading candidates for BJ Upton, as well as Carlos Beltran, but with Beltran's full no trade clause and Upton's contract extending for another full year, San Francisco would be better set for the long term to target Upton.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, "Upton would be a logical fit for the Giants, upgrading their offense and providing strong defense in center field behind the National League’s top pitching staff."
AT&T Park has a deep centre field and with Upton's speed and defensive capabilities, not only would he cover more ground that Nate Schierholtz in that area of the outfield, but he would make a great top of the order hitter with the speed to steal more bases than anyone on the team, and power to drive in runs.
Additionally, if the Giants were able to land Upton, and make a legitimate run at the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, we could see a massive offensive turnaround of this team; one that, coupled with their pitching staff, would be one of the best teams in baseball.
Upton would not be expected to be the team's leader, as they already have personalities like Brian Wilson and Cody Ross, and the veteran leadership of first baseman Aubrey Huff, allowing Upton to play his game without the constant pressures to be more than he can be as a role player and leader on the team.
The Giants also boast a very proud fan base, one that would embrace Upton as being one of the stronger hitters on the team, and play a large role in helping him reach the potential he has to be a great offensive force.
Rosenthal also notes that "the addition of Upton to center field could lead to a platoon between Andres Torres and Cody Ross, players with complementary batting splits, in left field.",another benefit to the sometimes questionable offence of San Francisco.
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With the injury of the obsolete Nate McClouth in the Atlanta lineup, and the raw, unrefined talent of Jordan Schafer, the Braves are in dire need of a competent centre fielder, and bat.
Both of these can be found in BJ Upton, an option which would also give them a viable, valuable leadoff hitter.
If the Braves hope to make a run in the playoffs this season, they will need to acquire a strong bat no matter what, as the expectations of Dan Uggla haven't yet been met, and the young talent of Jason Heyward is still not consistent enough to rely on as the team's premier bat.
Atlanta has a handful of prospects, any of which can be offered in return for Upton, who is a more feasible option over Carlos Beltran because they would have the opportunity to keep Upton on the roster through next season and potentially negotiate a new contract.
We have still yet to see Upton play at the level that we know he is capable of playing, and we could be one or two seasons away from seeing him do that, which is why I think that with Tampa Bay's patience with Upton wearing thin, he could be acquired at a price below what his value will be in the coming seasons.
The fan base in Atlanta is among the best in the majors and the tandem of multitalented Upton and Heyward in the outfield would certainly become a fan favourite quickly. Because of his recent bitterness towards the Rays' organization, and his lack to lead the way they would like him to, Upton has never really received the type of following that his talent deserves, and was overshadowed by the superstar in Carl Crawford for a lot of the time he was their before moving to Boston, so a strong fan base that would welcome Upton to the organization with open arms is crucial for the development of his game.
We know what Uggla is capable of, and Heyward will only continue to improve, so if Upton is able to find his stride in Atlanta, he could set them up for playoff runs for the next several years.
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To the dismay of the Cleveland Indians, their star centre fielder Grady Sizemore has made his third trip to the DL in 2011.
Enter BJ Upton.
Sizemore has turned out to be quite injury prone, and with him headed to free agency after next season, it would be wise for Cleveland to replace him.
BJ Upton is very similar to Grady Sizemore, with less power, and more speed. He offers equalled, if not improved defence to their outfield and with Sizemore out for the better part of the rest of the season, having Upton fill in at centre field in Sizemore's absence is the closest to the "real thing" that they'll find.
Upon Sizemore's return, a simple shift to right field would give them a lethal outfield that would defensively be comparable to any in baseball.
As this will obviously be a valuable addition for the remainder of the season, it will give Cleveland the 2012 season to analyze the play of both Upton and Sizemore in the last year of their contracts, and likely have a choice between two premier centre fielders to negotiate a new contract with.
If they find a good deal of success with the two outfield stars playing together, they could even have the option of resigning them both to new contracts, as their aging lineup will allow them to have some cash to spend.
As has been a going theme throughout the discussions of Upton, he will also not likely have many leadership expectations with Sizemore being the fan favourite and leader when healthy, and the veteran talent that the team possesses.
Upton is as viable an option for Cleveland as he has been for any team on this list so far.
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The Nats are one of the up-and-coming teams in the National League, as they have raised one of the best pitching prospects in Stephen Strasburg of the last decade and claim the rights to the biggest prospect in baseball arguably of all-time, Bryce Harper.
BJ Upton in centre field, creating a tandem with All-Star Jayson Werth, opens up the possibilities for Bryce Harper to take the reigns in left field when he receives his call up in the next few seasons.
Assuming Harper isn't a bust, this could create one of the best defensively and offensively gifted outfields that baseball has seen in the last several seasons.
As far as this season and next season is concerned, though, Upton would make a great leadoff or two-hole hitter, alternating with second baseman Danny Espinosa and having Werth in the three-hole.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes that Nationals' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has known Upton since childhood, likes the idea of adding him to the roster and has been on board with the idea of acquiring Upton to their already talented team.
Although Kilgore notes that Washington is looking for a long term solution at centre field, they would have Upton through the 2012 season and would likely be able to negotiate a new contract with him, which would be a wise decision given his age, current skill set, and potential still yet to be unlocked.
With Washington's currently talented lineup and the awaited arrival of super prodigy Bryce Harper, Upton is young enough to be part of what could be a competitor for the National League title in the coming seasons.