Baseball Writers and Others Award B.J. Upton to the Phillies


B.J. Upton is about to be issued to the Philadelphia Phillies. Being a GM these days is easy. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Apparently, the Phillies aren’t going to have to make an offer to any free agent center fielders in the next couple months. A series of “unnamed baseball officials” are simply going to award Tampa’s B.J. Upton to the Phillies.

That is really, really nice of them.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported today the Phillies are widely seen as the favorites to land the power-hitting, breaking-pitch missing center fielder, formerly of the Rays.

"The Braves will make a qualifying offer Friday to Michael Bourn, and the Rays will make one to B.J. Upton, as well. But the top two free-agent center fielders on the market will turn those offers down and are more likely to sign long free-agent deals elsewhere.The Braves have a little bit better chance to sign Bourn long-term than the Rays do of signing Upton, who’s surely a goner. But early speculation has both players finding riches with new teams.Baseball officials still see the Nationals as the favorites for Bourn, while the Phillies are seen as an early favorite for Upton……The Phillies might pursue two outfielders, but one of them will need to be a center fielder. Bourn is an ex-Phillie, but with his agent having an especially good relationship with the Nats, outsiders view them as the more logical landing spot."

Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk notes many have speculated that Michael Bourn would be the Phils’ primary target, but that perception may be starting to change. One can only hope…

"…Bourn would probably be more expensive than Upton, and that could be a consideration. It’s hard to say what the budget constraints are for the Phillies. Yes, they have a big payroll already, but they also have a new TV deal coming in a couple of years that will likely give them a lot more dough."

It’s nice to be one of the richy riches, isn’t it?

Our own Ethan Seidel did a great interview with Dave Scheiber, who has covered the Rays for the St. Pete Times and for the last four years, as part of his fact check on Upton. Long story short, B.J. is a promising young player entering the 2013 season at just 28 years old, who possesses excellent power from the right-hand side of the plate and plays terrific defense. But he also strikes out a ton and doesn’t get on base enough.

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Everyone who follows me on Twitter (@FelskeFiles if you aren’t already, and really, why aren’t you? What’s the matter with you? You have a problem.) knows I’ve already given my heart to San Francisco’s Angel Pagan. But if Pagan isn’t the target, then Upton would be a solid second choice, despite his deficiencies.

Upton would not be a lead-off hitter, he just doesn’t get on base enough (that .298 number is straight-up ugly). That would leave Rollins as the de facto leadoff guy again in 2013, barring another move by the Phils. But Upton could be a nice buffer between Utley and Howard in the batting order, and the Phillies would be signing a player who is just entering the peak of his career. He would probably be a bit more expensive than Pagan, but would be cheaper than Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn.

Plus, at just 28 years old next year, there is a chance the supremely talented Upton could still put his entire game together, cut down on the strikeouts and come up with a few monster seasons. Everyone remembers his dominance in the 2008 playoffs, and how he almost single-handedly won Game 3 in the World Series that year.

He truly is the most intriguing combination of potential talent, age and cost among all the free agent center fielders. And if the price tag is five years at around $60 million, that’s a deal the Phillies should feel good about making.

Pagan at three years and $30-35 million would be better, but Upton’s age makes a five-year commitment palatable.

Thankfully, all these wonderful “baseball officials” are making things easy for us and all but assuring that Upton will be placed on the Phillies.

Maybe if we’re really nice, they’ll give us Pagan too.

Rube, take the winter off. It’s all covered.