Rays, B.J. Upton avoid arbitration with one-year deal

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The Rays and B.J. Upton avoided arbitration today by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $4.825 million, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.

The Tampa Tribune reports that he could make an additional $25,000 based on plate appearances.

The 26-year-old Upton earned $3 million in 2010 after losing an arbitration hearing in his first year of eligibility. Hearings are uncomfortable for both sides, so it’s clear they didn’t want to have to go through that process again.

Upton batted .237/.322/.424 with 18 home runs, 62 RBI, a .745 OPS and 42 stolen bases in 51 attempts last season. He hit for more power, but his contact rate suffered in the process. His production against right-handed pitching also collapsed considerably, doing little to shed his reputation as a highly talented, yet enigmatic player.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.