Philadelphia Phillies: B.J. Upton Is Not Worth the Cost of First-Round Pick

Tom MechinAnalyst INovember 3, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 09:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the dugout against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 9, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Now that the Tampa Bay Rays have extended a qualifying offer to B.J. Upton, is it any less likely the Philadelphia Phillies pursue him?

Probably not. But it should be.

If there is a silver lining to the terrible season that was 2012, it is that the Phillies will once again draft outside the bottom of baseball.  With an 81-81 finish, their worst record in a decade, the Phillies qualified for the 16th pick in baseball’s annual draft next summer—the highest they’ve selected since 2001.  (Cole Hamels was the 17th pick in 2002.)

In the four drafts that proceeded their fall (or climb, depending on how you look at it) from the top half of the draft, the Phillies selected Gavin Floyd (’01, picked fourth), Chase Utley (’00, picked 15th), Brett Myers (’99, picked 12th) and Pat Burrell (’98, picked first overall).  Each of these players, outside of Floyd, were major components of the club that won the 2008 World Series.

No player the Phillies have drafted since Cole Hamels has had as much impact as Cole or the three of the four first-round picks preceding him (mentioned above). 

Could that be a direct correlation to where in the draft they are selecting, or is it simply luck of the draw?

Vance Worley was chosen with the 102nd overall selection in 2008, and while he has been a nice find, his future is anything but set in stone.  He could develop into the next Cole Hamels or simply be a flash in the pan.  Most likely, Worley will end up somewhere in between the two extremes.


The probability of finding impact talent outside the first round of the draft is too rare for the Phillies to pass up on their highest draft pick in a decade in order to sign a player with so many question marks.

I’m well versed on what the Phillies need going forward.  (While the team’s biggest fault in 2012 was the lack of a true eighth-inning shutdown reliever, it’s hard to believe it’s going to be an issue going forward.  Either the Phillies will sign a veteran setup reliever or one of their young arms, many of whom gained valuable experience in 2012, will step up and fill the void.)  They need a center fielder.  They need a right-handed power bat in the lineup.  And they need to get younger.

B.J. Upton fits all of those things and more: He can steal bases, plays good defense and despite his nearly seven full seasons in the major leagues, still has enormous upside.  I have no doubt that if the Phillies were to sign Upton, he would thrive in Philadelphia.  His power numbers would probably skyrocket playing in Citizens Bank Park, and until he gave them a reason not to, the fans would adore him.

But Upton is also a player who has struck out almost one out of every three at-bats in the major leagues, is a career .255 hitter and has never slugged over .500 in a season in which he’s gotten 500 at-bats.  

Is spending $75 million (which is what it will likely take to sign Upton) and losing a first-round draft pick worth the cost?  Upton has a career WAR (although it’s the stat I hate the most, because its premise is flawed and makes absolutely no sense) average of just 2.4 per season.

To me, it isn’t, and there are far better uses for both their money and draft pick.  The Phillies would be better served, both in 2013 and going forward, in bringing back Shane Victorino and signing a veteran right-handed bat like Torii Hunter to play right field. 

B.J. Upton would look great in center field next April.  However, the cost would be too great.  Paying the man is one thing, but doing so and giving up the opportunity to find the next Mike Trout is something else. 

Now that Tampa Bay has attached draft-pick compensation to B.J. Upton, please move on and find someone else.