There was quite a bit of uproar and snickering this week when the Rays avoided arbitration with BJ Upton and gave him a one-year deal worth $4.825 million. That contract represented a raise over his 2010 salary ($3.0M) and made Upton the Rays highest-paid player.

Many think that is way too much for a player that hit .241 last season with only 9 home runs and what seemed like a never-ending string of bone-headed plays. But under Major League Baseball’s pay structure, Upton’s new contract is exactly what he is worth.

In general, barring a long-term extension, players make close to the the league minimum (~$400K) their first three years. In the next three years, players are eligible to have their salary determined by an arbitrator before becoming eligible for free agency after six years.

Upton is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility. To determine how much a player is worth in arbitration, it is best to look at comparable players from recent years that were also in their second year of arbitration eligibility.

In the case of Upton, the best comparison was Shane Victorino of the Phillies. If we compare the two players in the two seasons prior to their second year of arbitration this is what we see…

We see that Victorino is clearly the superior offensive player. But Upton betters the Phillies center fielder in stolen bases and defense (UZR/150). Overall, Victorino was worth 1.8 more Wins (WAR) in those two seasons.

Now we can look at what Victorino made in arbitration and then scale it back.

Following the 2009 season, Victorino requested $5.8 million in arbitration. The Phillies offered $4.75 million (the arbitrator must pick one or the other). The two sides would eventually avoid arbitration by agreeing to a long-term deal in which Victorino was paid $5.0 million for the 2010 season.

If we assume the $5.0 million was a slight discount for the security of the three-year extension, then we can guess that Victorino’s true value was a little more. Let’s say $5.3 million which is right in the middle of the figures submitted to the arbitrator.

So if Victorino was worth $5.3 million in his second year of arbitration, and Upton is a comparable, albeit slightly lesser player, then it is perfectly reasonable to believe that Upton is worth $4.8 million for the 2011 season.

So if Upton’s new salary upsets you, your anger shouldn’t be with Upton or the Rays. Rather, be angry at the system that says Upton is worth that much money.



  1. St. Aug Ryan says:

    It is a sad day when a loafing, 150 plus strike out looking, 230 hitter gets almost $5 million. I guess there is no way we could have kept a real baseball palyer in Carl Crawford. I would have rather cut ties with Upton and all of the other players we have lost so far and kept CC.

    • Andy says:

      This point of view ignores the dollars and years that Crawford ultimately signed for. Based on 2011 salaries you could get roughly 3 BJ Uptons for one Carl Crawford. It never was a choice between BJ and Carl.

      If money wasn’t an option, I’m sure all of us would choose CC over BJ. But money matters, and until we consistently pull 30k people a night, it will always matter more for us than most teams.

      • Don says:

        Your a Goober…..thats someone that reads media bull and repeats it constantly…as if they know something…
        I’ll repeat once more and maybe you can repeat this to all your friends…you might impress them…
        As Ryan was saying the Rays COULD have kept CC by getting rid of players LIKE Upton making $5mil, they almost have done that anyway..
        Thus leaving them with, Longo, CC, Zobrist and a good pitching staff and a bunch of kids ($400,000), and under their self appointed budget…
        It wasn’t a matter of being ABLE to afford CC it was WANTING to…
        And you can quote all the comparable salaries around the league you want…but an outfielder that hits .230 and strikes out 160+ times is not worth $5mil… talk about WASTING money ….Rays are the best at it!

        • Andy says:

          “they almost have done that anyway”

          EXACTLY. If their budget already dictated that they were going to cut these guys, then that same budget wouldn’t magically provide for Crawford. I like the unintended irony of “your a goober” btw.

  2. Deadeye says:

    I see the idiots are out in full force over this issue.

  3. Maybe they should ask BJ to just retire like Gil Meche. Because like 11 million for a mid-range experienced #3 starter, 4.8 million is way too much to pay for a 20 homer, 40 steal CF’er. Oh by the way, Reggie Jackson was called a loafer and struck out more than anyone in MLB history. Although they are not comparable as ballplayers – totally different skillset – being called a loafer and striking out too much is not indicative of talent.

    • Don says:

      Ok I give up..what is YOUR “indicative of talent”….????
      every .280-.300, 30 Hr hitting, 100rbi, gold glover,… outfielder wants to know…….help us….

      • Michael says:

        You realize all-stars make much more money than this, right?

        • St. Aug Ryan says:

          All I am saying is I would cut BJ to afford a player like CC. $5 million is way to much for this guy. He has athletic talent but doesn’t have the work ethic to make something of this talent. Maybe the Rays can trade him down the road for a bucket of bp balls.

          • Derek says:

            Then you put Jennings in CF. Its argued that he isnt ready for the bigs, but you want to put him in one the hardest spots on the field. You also assume that he will outperform BJ, thats a tall task. Letting BJ go gets you 5 mill this year, and however much he gets paid next year. Explain how that equals 142 mill.

          • Andy says:

            So let me get this straight? You read an article, which shows (whether you like it or not) that BJ Upton is worth about 5 million a year on the open market, and your first instinct in the face of this information is to give him away for free?

            I’m glad you’re not running the team.

  4. Derek says:

    Does anyone understand that Upton got better in almost everything last year? He really only has one problem and thats contact%. He has an above average OPS, OBP, ISO, SLUG, but his contact %s are low. Its not plate discipline either, because he walks more than average, and swings at less out-of-the zone pitches than average. Does anyone know how where to find out how many times he was picked off? I do know he was caught stealing one less time than Crawford, so we cant say he isnt a “smart” base runner. Maybe he just needs to learn a guys pick off move better.

    • Rob says:

      Dude, he has a low batting average and loafs on highly publicized plays on ESPN!!! Get it? Walks are boring. ISO and BABIP are just gibberish. I’ll bet you’ve never actually played ball in your life.

      • Derek says:

        Do you even know what batting average is? Did I mention BABIP? Just so you know, not only did I play “ball” but Im also a triathlete, and play golf. What are you doing these days, because Im working on a degree in engineering. How about you? Are you happy with your job?

        Walks are boring, but he is getting paid to produce. Put him on first, have him steal second. Longo hits him home. Its baseball, if you dont get it. GTFO.

  5. Don says:

    One more angle before I drown my headache in Bud….
    If… I just got off a boat from Cuba or wherever… and someone told me St. Pete had a major league baseball team…and they said ….their highest payed player hit .230 last year playing outfield and lead the league in strikeouts (2nd actually)……
    My ONLY comment would be “They are in trouble….good luck with that type of players!”….end of story….

    • Derek says:

      Then I walked up and said. “Our highest paid player in 2010 hit .196, and made twice as much as our highest in 2011″ After I stuck my chest out and laughed could I buy your boat ticket back home?

      • St. Aug Ryan says:

        You are the only Rays fans I know that like having Upton on the team. Next thing you are going to tell me is you like having “Batting Practice” Sonnanstine on the team. Put Jennings out there and see what he can do. Maddon is going to play with the damn lineup everyday anyways. Hey BJ the last pitch was right down the middle again, stop looking at the ump shaking your head!

        • Derek says:

          Sonny doesnt matter, but I would like to see him if he went out there knowing he was going for an inning. Some extra velo and he could be good. Im not stupid thats all. I know he adds value to the team. Jennings is replacing Crawford, he cant replace BJ too. I can see BJ having a breakout year. I like what he did last year, and I can see him making adjustments to make his swing less complicated.

      • Don says:

        Oh Derek…Excuse me..but our highest player in 2010 hit over .300, lead the league in stolen bases, doubles, triples… going to the hall of fame….
        but to Boston first to terrorize the team that gave him away…
        Any hints??

        • Derek says:

          Not true. Pena made $250,000 more than Crawford.

          Evan and BJ both had more doubles than Crawford. Dexter Fowler had one more triple, and Crawford had the fourth highest total of stolen bases. Dont let facts get in your way. I dont think we gave him away. 142 million isnt cheap. 5 million though for an above average player. Ill take it.

          • Sarah says:

            Derek, I see your point, but at least compare apples to apples — $142 million is over 5 years, not just for one year.

          • Derek says:

            Im pretty sure its seven years. Anyways, who cares? We could never, ever afford it. I wasnt comparing the two anyways. I was saying 142 million isnt giving something away. Its not being able to afford it. How you people think we could have is beyond me.

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