MLB Trade Deadline: Top 4 Landing Spots for B.J. Upton
With more established and impressive names like Carlos Beltran and Felix Hernandez being tossed around in trade deadline discussions, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton isn't receiving quite as much attention as he deserves.
Nevertheless, he may very well find himself with a new team come Aug. 1.
The Rays, sensing they may be falling irrevocably out of the American League East race, are rumored to be shopping Upton, most likely for prospects. Upton is under team control through 2012.
He currently sports a disappointing .229 batting average with a more respectable 15 home runs and 23 stolen bases. Some teams may believe a change of scenery is all he needs to fulfill his true potential.
So where could Upton end up? Here are the top four possible destinations for the 26-year-old center fielder.
1. Atlanta Braves
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The Atlanta Braves have had offensive difficulties all season long, concentrated nowhere more strongly than in the outfield.
Jason Heyward, Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth are all hitting below .240. Martin Prado, the regular left fielder, is hitting .275, but is only just coming back from the disabled list.
Schafer, whom B.J. Upton would replace if he were to join the Braves, is still only 24 years old, so there is still some time for him to develop. Although he has shown he can steal bases (15 this season), Schafer doesn't get on nearly enough to showcase his speed (.300 on-base percentage).
Granted, Upton has had some trouble with that as well (.310 OBP), particularly due to his lack of patience at the plate. But unlike Schafer (one home run), Upton has power that would help a club ranked 15th in MLB in slugging percentage.
Rumor Update: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Rays will likely seek pitching prospects the Braves do not want to give up in return for Upton.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are also having offensive trouble in 2011, as surprising as that might be. They are only slugging .386, good for 19th in Major League Baseball.
The Phillies could use another right-handed bat, particularly in the outfield. They have never quite replaced the production of Jayson Werth, evidenced by the platoon of Dominic Brown and Ben Francisco (both hitting below .250).
B.J. Upton could be the batter they're looking for. He wouldn't have to be "the man" in Philadelphia—not with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins accompanying him in the lineup. Upton could be a very serviceable complement to those three.
In the field, Upton would enhance the Phillies' outfield defense by allowing Shane Victorino, who has won three consecutive Gold Gloves, shift to right. (Or it's possible Upton would play there himself.) Upton is a superb center fielder with excellent range and a stylish glide to the ball.
Rumor Update: After Philadelphia was reportedly interested in him, and Upton himself said he heard rumors of being headed there, Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal reported that the Phillies were not yet in talks with the Rays.
3. Cleveland Indians
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Austin Kearns, Ezequiel Carrera, Michael Brantley.
Your American League Central-contending Cleveland Indians' outfield!
Okay, so injuries to Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo have weakened the Tribe's outfield considerably. B.J. Upton, if he were to go to an American League team, seems to have a calling in Cleveland.
And if there were any doubts as to whether Indians management would be willing to shake up the roster in an attempt to improve, they should be set aside. General manager Chris Antonetti said he wants to do anything he can to help this team win.
It may be a matter of what Cleveland feels is its biggest need: hitting or starting pitching.
Rumor Update: Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi wrote that the Indians are interested in Upton, possibly as an alternative for original target Carlos Beltran.
4. San Francisco Giants
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The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants are, perhaps, the best fit for B.J. Upton.
Their offense is arguably the most abysmal of all the current first-place teams. The Giants are 27th in baseball in runs scored and 24th in slugging percentage.
Center fielder Andres Torres is having a particularly disappointing year, hitting just .236 with three home runs and 18 RBI.
Upton could provide the offensive resurgence the Giants have thirsted for since catcher Buster Posey was lost for the season. Upton may not hit for a much higher average than Torres, but his power advantage would show, as would his greater speed.
As far as defense, the swift Upton would be a perfect fit for spacious AT&T Park.
Rumor Update: Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweeted that the Giants had a "strong interest" in Upton, citing his defensive prowess in San Francisco's big ballpark.