As veteran players like Cliff Floyd, Trevor Miller, and Eric Hinske are bought out of their contracts and file for free agency, reports begin to trickle in that teams are inquiring on the availability of B.J. Upton.
It’s not surprising that teams might inquire. After all, criticism of Upton’s work ethic on the field during the season has been well documented. Some teams might take that as a sign that he’s’ unhappy in Tampa or that he’s not in favor with the coaching staff. I don’t think that’s the case. Nothing from Maddon or the front office indicates this. Still, teams would be remiss not to ask. As we saw last year with the trade of Delmon Young, Friedman and the Rays front office aren’t afraid to move a top young player if it makes long term sense for the team.
With the emergence of Fernando Perez, a smart, speedy outfielder who can play center, and who also displayed a little pop in the bat, Tampa might think they could find their everyday, power hitting right fielder to balance the loss of Upton in the lineup. No one knows if the power Upton displayed in the post season would resurface during the regular season next year. Remember, he only hit 9 home runs during the regular season. So if they could move Upton for, say, a proven closer, and some prospects, and sign a power hitting right fielder. This is assuming Perez could step into center, a deal might make sense. Perez’s speed could easily match the 40 stolen bases Upton swiped in ‘08.
Again, this is all speculation, which is what the off season is all about, but as much as I like Upton, and would love to see him roaming center for a long time to come, I respect the choices the front office and Maddon have made, and certainly think this type scenario would make sense. Not to mention, Upton has yet to be tied up in a longer term deal, and they might want to get the most out of him before losing him to free agency and getting nothing in return.