BJ Upton has played 954 games for the Rays, second only to Carl Crawford (1,235) in franchise history. And despite hopes that the new free agency rules will have Upton back with the Rays in 2013, it is very likely that Upton will only play 12 more games in a Rays uniform.

One of the keys to the Rays’ success in recent years has been the accumulation of draft picks they received as compensation for losing free agents. But under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Rays can only receive compensation for Upton if they first tender him a 1-year “qualifying offer.”

That is, the Rays must offer Upton a 1-year deal worth ~$13 million*. Upton must then decide between that contract and free agency. And everything right now suggests it would be silly for Upton to accept the qualifying offer.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com spoke with four executives. One predicted Upton would get a 3-year, $27 million contract in free agency. However, the other three suggested Upton will make $50-70 million on a 4-5 year deal. That would be $12.5-14.0 million per year. And if that is true, there is no reason for Upton to settle for a 1-year, $13 million contract.

Here is a look at two center fielders that recently signed extensions and how they compare to Upton. In each case, both Andrew McCutchen and Adam Jones signed their extensions prior to reaching free agency. So the values below are the ages at which they would have become free agents and the values of their contracts during what would have been their free agency seasons…

Keep in mind that both players sacrificed some money for the security of long-term deals during their arbitration years.

Of course, the better comparison is Jones. And looking forward, Dan Szymborski of the ZiPS projections system, projects Jones to be worth ~$98 million (19 WAR) over the next six seasons.  And he has Upton at ~$86 million (17 WAR) during that same period.

So I would guess that Upton is going to get a 5-year deal this off-season worth about $15 million per year ($75 million total). He could probably push for a sixth season, but may prefer to hit free agency again at 34.

Of course, this all depends on which teams might want Upton. A quick and dirty look around the league suggests there could be some deep pockets in the hunt, including the Yankees and Red Sox, both of whom have center fielders, but may need an outfielder in 2013. The Nationals have long be known to be interested.

But maybe the most interesting team might be the Marlins, who just happened to recently shed $15.5 million off their 2013 payroll by moving Hanley Ramirez.

It has been a roller coaster ride with Upton, a ride that is almost over. But Upton will get a nice parting gift, which is cool, as long as it is not the Yankees or Red Sox.

* of course the Rays don’t have to make the qualifying offer. But if they don’t, there will be no compensation.

 
 

8 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    In my opinion I think fans will miss Upton more than we think. I know he can be frustrating at times, but there aren’t many CFs who I would rather have (maybe 4-5 I can think of off the top of my head). I think it will be one of those ‘you don’t realize what you had until it’s gone” situations.

  2. Tom says:

    I am hoping BJ accepts arb with the thought that this year he will be competing with Hamilton, Bourne, and Victorino on the open market and that he may get a better deal next year. Also the D-Backs may need a CF next year (Chris Youngs contract is through 13) and he may want to play with his brother. I do not foresee this happening though.

  3. Dave L says:

    I didnt think it would be that big of money but with the Sept showing its probably right.

    If he goes to NY or especially Boston he will never survive the crucifiction that awaits him. Ask Carl. Those places are not for sensitive souls.

    He’s better off going to the NL. where there’s great pitchers but also more lousy pitchers and overall less scrutiny.

    We will definitely miss his production. At least next year I wont have to continue to argue futilely against his detractors that we are not better off without him as it will become self evident. Congrats to BJ just get out of the AL East please.

  4. Brenda says:

    Cannot wait until he’s gone. He made it a point a long time ago to say he would not re-sign with the Rays and he would go the route of FA. If he doesn’t want to be here I certainly don’t want him here. Jennings will take over CF without any lack of defense (we need to hope he hits like we thought he would).

  5. Allen says:

    What kind of money is BJ worth? He’s never scored a hundred runs, never had a hundred RBIs, never hit 30 HRs, and has averaged 171 strike outs for each 162 games played. I don’t think he’s worth the frustrations he brings to a team. I love his speed and he’s a great centerfielder, but offensively he drives me bonkers.

    • Dave L says:

      Same could be said (minus the K’s) about Mr. Ray -Ben Zobrist. On this offensively challenged team, the guys who are the most productive are not great by historical measuring sticks.

      Zobrist was earlier noted to be top 6 or 8 since 2008 (for Rays fans-Anno Dominum) in AL WAR we all nod our heads of course he’s beyond normal stats metrics in his worth for a .268 hitter with moderate power.

      Then when those same WAR stats place Upton at 16th or so in all of the AL as well. It can’t be dismissed.

      He’s not 5-tool All Time. But he’s 5-tool in Rays terms.

      He will be missed greatly.

  6. I’d like to keep him at what I believe he’s worth ($6 million/yr) but that’s not going top happen. On this team, he’s just a luxury and not a cornerstone. A healthy Sam Fuld will probably give the Rays 60% of BJ’s total offensive production (minus HRs) for about 10% (or possibly less) of the cost. At those prices, somebody else can have him. That’s moneyball. People should be more concerned about getting an everyday first baseman and what the starting rotation will look like if Shields is gone in 2014.

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