Tampa Bay Rays: Is B.J. Upton an Overrated Player?

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer INovember 9, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 19:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays prepares to bat against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 19, 2012 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

The team that signs Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton to a long-term deal could be making a career-defining mistake. The proof is in the numbers.

Pretend that you are a general manager of a team. You have a lot of money to spend this offseason. You want to make a splash and bring in a potential franchise player who will define your squad for the better part of the remainder of this decade.

A player who is ranked as one of the best on the market is available. But over eight seasons this slugger has hit .300 once and that was five seasons ago.

Never has he hit 30 homers. He has never driven in 85 runs. He strikes out 150 times a season. His OPS hovers around .750. His OPS+ wavers around 110. It has been four seasons since his WAR has reached 3.0.

Not once has he been listed on an MVP ballot, which usually includes more than 20 names. Not once did he make an All-Star Team, win a Gold Glove nor a Silver Slugger.

By no statistical, sabermetric nor traditional standard is he anything more than a good player who can have flashes of brilliance.

And yet that player, B.J. Upton, just turned down Tampa Bay's qualifying offer of $13 million according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Upton knows on the open market, especially after Josh Hamilton signs, he will get more money than that over more years. Any team that signs him will talk about his youth and great talents.

In other words he will still be playing the "young potential star" card while being paid as if he already is a star.

Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford at least put together a few All-Star worthy seasons before signing their insane deals. Upton has yet to reach that height.

What if this is Upton's peak? What if this is what he is? A good but not great player could be exactly what Upton's career could amount to.

There is no shame in being a good player. But there is shame in a front office who would pay him based upon banking on what he will be as he goes into his 30s.

The same speculative mentality led to the financial crash of 2008. That was of course the year the Rays made it to the World Series. It was also one year after Upton's single excellent season.

There have been two Presidential elections since Upton's only All-Star caliber season. He very well may sign a deal that goes through the next election.

If he gets a deal that pays more than his $13 million offer for three or four years, then the General Manager who signed him will not have a job through the end of the deal.

Meanwhile the Rays will get another draft pick and use that money elsewhere. Another team will hope he can live up to the deal, even though his career has shown exactly what kind of player he really is.