MLB Trade Rumors: Are the Tampa Bay Rays Asking Too Much for B.J Upton?

Paul OxenburyContributor IIIJuly 27, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 1:  Outfielder B. J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays follows a fly ball against the Texas Rangers June 1, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

With the Tampa Bay Rays all but out of the playoff picture, B.J Upton is one of the names that keeps appearing in trade talk. As the deadline approaches, there appears to be a number of teams interested in acquiring Upton.

There also appears to be a large stumbling block when it comes to trading him. Tampa Bay wants a considerable return, which given that he has not performed to the potential that saw him drafted second overall in 2002, may be unlikely.

The reason why Upton is so highly valued by the Rays is down to what they know he is capable of and what he has done in the past.

In 2007, Upton hit .300/.386/.508 with 24 home runs. On the way to Tampa Bay’s surprise World Series appearance the next year, Upton’s home run dropped off, but he still managed an impressive .383 on-base percentage and 44 stolen bases. The home run power returned for the playoffs though, where in his 14 at bats in the ALDS and ALCS, he hit seven homers.

Over the last three seasons, Upton’s numbers have declined alarmingly. This season he is currently batting just .227/.307/.395, which are career lows for both batting average and on-base percentage. While his power numbers and walk totals have fallen, his strikeout numbers have remained consistently high, and he is on pace to strike out over 150 times again.

Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see why teams may be put off from giving up a top prospect for Upton. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported the Braves, one of the teams potentially interested in Upton, would not be willing to give up one of their best prospects. Jayson Stark has reported a similar stance from the Nationals.

Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman has proven himself to be very astute when it comes to the trade market. He dealt Scott Kazmir to the Angels, which looks like a good decision given Kazmir’s struggles over the last couple of years. He traded Delmon Young for Matt Garza, helping form one of the best rotations in baseball and then traded Garza to the Cubs for highly touted prospects Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee. While Archer has struggled this year, Lee has been outstanding as has another player in the trade, outfielder Brandon Guyer.

An advantage for the Rays is that Upton is still in his arbitration years. This makes him relatively affordable for any team contemplating trading for him. It also means it is not imperative that they trade Upton.

The Rays are not likely to get the return they want on him and unless they lower their demands, it may be the case that B.J Upton is still a Tampa Bay Ray after Sunday night's deadline.