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B.J. Upton and the Rangers

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Ruminating on Grant Brisbee's blog post predicting that the Rangers sign B.J. Upton

B.J. and the Upton.
B.J. and the Upton.
Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Grant Brisbee has a blog post up about B.J. Upton and the dilemma that he presents as he enters free agency, in which he ultimately predicts that Upton signs with the Rangers on a four year, $50 million deal.

Upton's defense is great, or its not, his offense is okay and that bad, he's hot and he's cold, he's yes and he's no...

Last season was B.J. Upton's age 27 season. He was the #2 overall pick in the 2002 draft -- the "Moneyball" draft -- being selected by the Rays ahead of such luminaries as Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Nick Swisher, and of course Drew Meyer. He debuted in the majors in 2004.

Upton hasn't been Delmon Young -- the #1 overall pick in the 2003, who the Rays dumped on Minnesota, and who has accumulated a whopping 0.8 in fWAR in 3575 major league plate appearances. Upton has been a better hitter than Young, is at least adequate in centerfield defensively, and provides value on the basepaths.

But Upton, like Young, has failed to meet expectations. But the tools are there, the ability is there, and Upton hasn't been terrible as a major leaguer. He's been good -- he has a total of 23.4 fWAR over the past six seasons.

He's just not been quite as good as he's supposed to have been.

Which leads to the dilemma Upton presents as a free agent.

With most free agents, you have a player who is leaving his peak seasons. The free agent is what he is, and the questions is generally how soon is he going to decline and how rapid will the decline be.

But Upton is still in his prime years, and still has enough untapped potential that it makes you believe that you might still be getting him on the upswing.

On the other hand, the holes in his game -- the low average, the spotty OBP, the high K rates, the questions about effort/desire -- are the type that tend to drive fans crazy. In fact, looking at Upton's stat line, he almost seems like a poor man's Josh Hamilton, albeit without the health problems.

Hamilton, of course, was drafted by the Rays' #1 overall in 1999, three years before they grabbed Upton. There would be a certain symmetry in the Rangers signing B.J. to replace Josh. It wouldn't surprise me if they put up about the same WAR over the next five years.

It would also mean, however, that the Rangers would be committing a lot of their offseason budget to fill a hole that may not need to be filled, if you believe that the Leonys Martin/Craig Gentry platoon would suffice in centerfield. It would mean adding another high-K, low-OBP, high-power bat to the outfield at a time where the Rangers appear more in need of OBP types.

(And before you argue too much about the benefits of getting Upton out of Tampa and in a more hitter-friendly park, here are his career home/road splits: .252/.336/.422 at home, .258/.335/.422 on the road).

I struggle with this. On the one hand, I have a hard time believing that Upton wouldn't be worth $50 million over the next four years, as Brisbee predicts, or $70 million over the next five years, as Jim Bowden predicts.

But then I think, does it really make sense to go four or five years on a free agent deal for a guy who doesn't profile to be a star?

Which then makes me wonder, maybe part of the reason that the Rangers would be willing to make that sort of investment is because they think the upside is there for him to be a star.

Which then leads me to wonder, what does this mean for Leonys Martin, if the Rangers were to grab Upton?

We don't really know what the Rangers are going to do, of course. The Rangers are supposedly in on Upton, but then, according to all the national writers, they are in on just about everyone. Bowden said they've got Plans A, B, C, D, E and F, if not more, and I'm sure some of those plans involve B.J. Upton.

Its a tough call. But I have to think that, at those prices, I'd be pleased with an Upton signing.