According to numerous sources, most notably Jim Salisbury, talks between B.J. Upton's agent and Ruben Amaro are intensifying. According to Rays beat reporter Marc Topkin, Upton will turn down the Rays Qualifying offer today, effectively making him a free agent. It's no secret that the Phillies are going to sign or trade for SOMEONE to play center field this off-season, and early speculation has centered around Upton, based on his being a right-handed batter and defensive skills.
Whether this happens or not is anyone's guess. I like a good hot stove rumor as much as the next guy, but right now I'm operating on facts, and fit. Here's the fit:
At first glance, reuniting a potential 30-30 guy with Steve Henderson, getting him out of Tropicana Field, and paying him a little more than market makes some sense to me, for a few reasons:
1. We need a centerfielder, and unless we trade for one, Upton is the youngest (28) highest upside guy out there.
2. He bats right-handed, which fits in to the plan.
3. Bourn and Hamilton will likely cost more.
4. Angelo Cataldi thinks he's a lazy bum who's lazier than Jimmy Rollins. Breeze J? Loafman Junior? The nickname possibilites are endless. That's fit to me.
The only thing I know for a fact however, is that the value of signing Upton is directly tied to the cost. The length of the contract and dollars is a part of this. Early reports have set the number as low as 4 years and $12-13 mm per, and as high as a 7 year, $100mm contract. So, no idea, just guesses, but somewhere in the middle lies the truth. so lets say, 5 years at $14mm per. That's doable.
So unless you're in the Angel Pagan or Shane Victorino or Torii Hunter can still play center field camp, it's hard to argue that Upton is the best fit among the marquee guys. And if the Rays hadn't extended him a qualifying offer, there would be no issue at all.
But they did.
Due to the CBA changes, should the Phillies sign Upton (or for that matter, Michael Bourn or Josh Hamilton, or Nick Swisher) they forfeit what is projected today to be the 16th overall pick in next year's draft.
Giving up a draft pick to sign a free agent is nothing new to the Phillies. However the draft position this year makes a BIG difference. when we signed Papelbon last year, we gave up the 31st pick, but picked up the 39th for losing Madson. In 2011, we gave up the 33rd overall pick for signing Cliff Lee but picked up the 39th for losing Werth. In 2010 we kept our first pick (Jesse Biddle) and in 2009 we gave up the 27th pick for signing Ibanez, and so on...
This year, we didn't give anyone a qualifying offer, so we don't get a pick for losing someone, and if we sign a guy like Upton, we sacrifice the 16th overall pick (in case you haven't clicked, the hyperlinks take you to a list of everyone who was picked at 16th since the 60's). So a few things to consider here:
- From 1973 to 2008 of the 35 players drafted in the 16th spot, only 6 players failed to reach the major leagues. Some notable names picked 16th overall over that period include Brett Lawrie, Chris Volstad, Nick Swisher, Lance Berkman, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Steve Howe, Wally Backman and Lance Parrish.
- Those 29 players amassed a net CAREER WAR of 224.5 combined.
- 11 of those players put up 6 war or better over their careers.
- If you compare that to say, the 33rd pick which we surrendered in 2011 for signing Cliff Lee, just 14 of the 35 players picked at that position over that same period made it to the Majors. you have to go back to 1998 and Brad Wilkerson to find a noteable name.
- Those 14 players combined for a net CAREER WAR of 38.8. 39.3 of that came from three players, Wilkerson, Mike Gallego, and Dave Burba.
So as you can see, there is a HUGE difference between surrendering a pick in the middle of the first round with one towards the end. In addition, over the past few years we've, for the most part, picked up another selection a few spots away, effectively "trading a draft pick" for a free agent if you use the NFL analogy. Not the case this year.
Take that, factor in that the signing team doesn't get the actual pick like years past. They pick at the end. If we sign Upton, we forfeit the pick, and the team picking 17th (Milwaukee) moves up. With the first 10 (and the Pirates 14th) being protected, based on the Current 2013 draft order If the Mets, Mariners, Padres or D-Backs signed a free agent with a qualifying offer attached we'd actually move up.
For me, the ONLY qualifying offer tied free agent we should remotely consider is Upton. His age and potential make him the only player who has the chance to both outplay the contract he'll get and make up for the value of the lost pick down the line, in relation to say, a Pagan or Victorino. But its a tough, tough call.
There's much more to this than just the money, it's also the future. So the question is really, is B.J. Upton the future? We'll know soon.