Return of B.J. Upton's power stroke the best news for Rays

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b.j. upton swinging.jpgWhile I’m pretty excited about David Price’s performance through two starts, the most promising development for the Rays during their 10-3 run to begin the season has been B.J. Upton’s power surge.
Upton, of course, looked for all of the world like a future superstar when he hit .300/.386/.508 with 24 homers in 474 at-bats as a 22-year-old in 2007. He went backwards in 2008, when he hit just nine homers, but he got on base 38 percent of the time again and then he rediscovered his power when he hit seven postseason homers.
As it turned out, Upton spent the 2008 season playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Still, judging from the power he showed in October, he seemed in position for a strong 2009 after shoulder surgery the previous November.
His power, though, was again missing in action, and this time the rest of his game fell apart with it. He hit just .204/.297/.290 in 45 games through the end of May. A big June followed (.324-5 HR-22 RBI), raising expectations yet again, but he was a complete bust the rest of the way. Outside of June, his best OPS in any month was 622. He had just six homers and 33 RBI in his remaining 455 at-bats for the season.
The ugly season, combined with the likelihood that the Rays would need to free up salary, led many to believe that Upton would be traded last winter. The Rays, though, never appeared to entertain serious conversations with other teams. Upton stuck around, enjoyed a nice spring and has opened the season with four homers and 11 RBI through 13 games. He’s hitting just .234, but he’s walked seven times and he has an 865 OPS.
Besides maybe Evan Longoria, Upton is the most gifted hitter on a Rays team that also features the 2009 AL co-home run leader in Carlos Pena, 2009 MVP candidate Ben Zobrist and three-time All-Star Carl Crawford. He’s not only a threat for 30 homers and 30 steals, but in two of his three full seasons, he’s had signiificantly better OBPs than Crawford has ever managed.
If this is the year the now 25-year-old Upton puts it together, then the Rays just might have the AL’s best offense. Zobrist and Jason Bartlett are in for sizable declines, but the Rays are bound to get better production from catcher and DH and Upton could very well go from a 686 OPS to something in the 900 range.

The Orioles are “moving aggressively” to trade Manny Machado

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Orioles “are moving aggressively on Manny Machado trade talks and now believe they can trade him by the end of the week.” There are reportedly “strong offers” for Machado from both the White Sox, per Ken Rosenthal, and the Cardinals, per Nightengale. The Giants, Red Sox, Phillies, and Yankees are also reportedly involved in talks, though it does seem unlikely that the O’s would trade Machado to a division rival.

Machado, 25, is a guy around which a team could build a franchise. The Orioles, however, seem resigned to the notion that they will not be able to sign him to a long term contract once he hits free agency a year from now. If they do deal him, it would not be terribly shocking to see the O’s just go all-in with a full rebuild, putting relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton and outfielder Adam Jones on the market, given that they too can become free agents following the 2018 season.

Machado had a down 2017, hitting .259/.310/.471, but still hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs. In the two years prior he posted OPSs of .876 and .861. As such, the price for a team to acquire him will be high, even if he’s entering his walk year.