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Why the Phillies should overpay for Justin Upton

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Alright, I've been convinced. There is one free agent the Phillies should sign, and overpay, to get.

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After the 2010 season, Jayson Werth signed a seven year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals that everybody thought was crazy.

And honestly, it was. It was nuts. It was a dramatic overpay, of that there can be no doubt. But Washington had been a doormat for years, and wanted to use Werth as a springboard to help them launch into a new era of competitiveness.

They had young players on the rise, some money to spend, and wanted a quality veteran player to help lead them toward playoff contention.

Right now, it might be time for the Philadelphia Phillies to do the same with Justin Upton.

I know, I know, I've been arguing against this all off-season. I've been ridiculing national writers who said the Phils should be signing free agents. I wanted to see the many, many, many young outfielders already in the system get as much playing time as possible.

I didn't want to see the Phils hog up a roster spot, and a place in the starting lineup, that could go to a young player with potential.

But after reading Ken Rosenthal's piece on Upton, Crashburn Alley's Corrine Landrey's piece and listening to The Sporting News' Jesse Spector on the latest TGP Radio podcast (subscribe to it here!), I am now convinced that Justin Upton would be worth a long-term deal for the Phillies.

And in order to get him, the Phils are likely going to have to overpay him.

OK, then. Pay the man.

Upton is just 28 years old. Even if the Phillies sign him to a six-year deal, he'd only be 33 in the last year of the contract. He'd be 34 on a seven-year deal.

That ain't old, folks.

Upton is also a damn fine player. Over the last three years he's hit 27, 29 and 26 home runs. He hit 31 in 2011 and 26 in 2009. He has 190 home runs over his nine year career. His 162 game average of .271/.352/.473, an OPS of .825, 26 homers, 84 RBIs, 32 doubles and 16 stolen bases is pretty darn good.

He's durable, playing in no fewer than 149 games every year since 2011. He's a three-time All Star who plays reasonably good defense in left field, too.

What's not to like?

No, he's not a 40-homer guy and probably will never be, although he should hit more homers playing at Citizens Bank Park than Petco Park and Turner Field. And yes, his career numbers in Philly have not been all that great (.226/.282/.400, .682 OPS in 124 PAs), but I'm not sure there's reason to put a whole lot of stock in that.

I admit, this is a reversal for me. I was against a player like Upton coming to the Phillies mainly because I didn't want him to take up a spot that could be used to see more of Aaron Altherr, Tyler Goeddel, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, or Roman Quinn next year.

The Phils also aren't going to be competing for any postseason spots this year. And the assumption was 2017 would be a longshot, too.

And, if the Phillies sign Upton, they would have to give up the first overall pick in the second round, with which, as Rosenthal noted, they could use to go above slot and get a real good young player there.

But there's no guarantee that Altherr, Goeddel, Williams or Quinn are going to be all that good. It's certainly less likely the second round pick is going to be a star. And we know that Upton is good.

Even if the Phils don't compete for a playoff spot in 2016 or 2017, 2018 is a reasonable goal. At that point, Upton would be just 30 years old. He'd be the one veteran on a team loaded with kids, and he'd be a younger veteran at that.

You can't have a team with ALL young kids.

And the Phillies already have a slew of young prospects in the system that losing the second round pick (and yes, the slot money too) wouldn't be too damaging.

Of course, free agency is a two-way street. Upton would have to be sold on the Phils' rebuilding efforts and, very likely, they'd have to overpay to land him, much the same way the Nats overpaid Werth.

But the longer Upton sits on the market, waiting for that long-term deal, the more of an opportunity there is for the Phillies to take advantage.

This year was a bad year to be a free agent outfielder, unless your name was Jason Heyward. If the Phils are the one team willing to give Upton what he was seeking when he entered free agency, perhaps that would be enough for him to sign.

Perhaps the Phillies can sell him on Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera and tell him he'll be the centerpiece of a young core they expect will be ready to contend in 2017 or 2018 at the latest.

The one reason not do this would be to soothe the "worries" of baseball "execs" who are concerned about "tanking" in baseball. Even if the Phils decide not to go this route, they are not tanking. But we've discussed this before.

The Phillies should overpay and try to land Justin Upton to be their left fielder for the next six to seven years.

I can't believe I'm saying that.

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