B.J. Upton

Breaking down B.J. Upton

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B.J Upton as the final piece to add to a contending team is a rather odd notion.  Obviously, Carlos Beltran has run circles around Upton offensively this year, and lesser lights like Josh Willingham, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera have also been superior hitters.  Just look at Upton’s batting averages the last few years:

2007: .300
2008: .273
2009: .241
2010: .237
2011: .229

How is a .230-.240 hitter a difference maker?

Upton, though, is such a tough player to judge.  He’s terribly inconsistent, but his batting average doesn’t come close to approximating his value.  Upton is an above average defensive center fielder and a quality basestealer with 20- or 25-homer power and a strong walk rate.

Even though his averages and power numbers have been all over the map, WAR actually rates him as being fairly consistent in his five years as the Rays’ primary center fielder.

2007: 4.7 WAR
2008: 4.0
2009: 1.3
2010: 4.3
2011: 2.2 — on pace for 3.6

There’s a couple of important things to remember here.  One is that Tropicana Field plays as a strong pitchers’ park.  The other is that offense has collapsed throughout the league.   Upton’s .706 OPS is barely below the AL average of .718, and it’s actually slightly above average after adjusting for The Trop.

Since 2007, Upton rates fifth among major league center fielders (>50 percent of games) in WAR.

1. Carlos Beltran: 22.0
2. Curtis Granderson: 20.5
3. Matt Kemp: 18.3
4. Josh Hamilton: 17.9
5. B.J. Upton: 16.7
6. Shane Victorino: 14.8
7. Grady Sizemore: 14.6
8. Marlon Byrd: 13.4
9. Torii Hunter: 13.4
10. Andrew McCutchen: 12.0 (since 2009)

Upton is still just 26.  He’s under control for next year and he shouldn’t cost more than $7 million, so he has considerable trade value.

And after saying all that, I still don’t think he’s the final piece for a contender.  I’m not dismissing him.  He almost singlehandedly took down the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS, hitting .321 with four homers and 11 RBI as the Rays won the series in seven games.  He has seven homers and 18 RBI in 21 postseason games, so everyone knows what he can do when he’s hot.

But I’m not sure he’s really going to be any better than Domonic Brown for the Phillies.  I’d like him in Atlanta, but Coco Crisp would come cheaper and might help the team even more.

Upton is more like a lottery ticket.  A team needing to gamble should pick him up and hope he goes off.  For that reason, I think he makes more sense in Cleveland and Pittsburgh than anywhere else.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.