B.J. Upton is one of the most complicated players to value in the majors. Though he has been around for eight seasons, it is still difficult to gauge which B.J. Upton you will get in any given year. Will he be the B.J. that hits 11 homers or 25+? Will he drive in 50 or 80? Will he walk 70 times or 40? This off-season things are even more complicated by the fact that he is coming off the best season of his career in a horribly weak free agent market.
Despite being ranked a top 5 free agent in this rough free agent class, the best player comparisons I can come up with are Chris Young and Shane Victorino, hardly players that will get fans pumped for the upcoming season. Maybe you can draw a comparison between him and his brother Justin, but Justin has a better batting average (.280) and OPS (.785), though fewer steals (18).
Their average stats since 2007, Upton’s first full season in the league:
B.J. Upton: 145 G, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 83 R, 36 SB, .255 BA, .768 OPS
Young: 142 G, 22 HR, 66 RBI, 74 R, 18 SB, .239 BA, .756 OPS
Victorino: 144 G, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 89 R, 32 SB, .276 BA, .779 OPS
Justin Upton (since 2008): 138 G, 21 HR, 70 RBI, 84 R, 16 SB, .281 BA, .842 OPS
He’s like Chris Young with more steals. Like Victorino with more power. Like Justin without the good on-base numbers. Really, there is not one single player that can mirror Upton’s production. So how much is a guy like that worth?
Chris Young’s contract pays $7 to $11 million per year. Victorino, a free agent himself, has been earning $7.5-9.5 million per year. Justin just signed a contract that pays $10-$14.5 million per year. The only catch is – all of them got their contracts as extensions from their teams, not on an open free agent market with very few options in the outfield. Torii Hunter, a different and significantly older player just signed a two-year deal worth around $13 million per season.
A reasonable contract would be in the range of four-years for $50 million. More likely, he will demand a five-year, $75 million deal – also the expected going rate for Michael Bourn. To make things more interesting, there is a good chance a bidding war heats up between the Braves and the Phillies, maybe even the Nats or Rangers, thus inflating his value even more.
Upton’s Likely Suitors:
Phillies: The Phillies have been most interested ever since Upton turned down his qualifying offer, meaning a team has to part with a first-round draft pick to get him. With Victorino gone, the Phils may look to overspend for Upton.
Braves: Atlanta is losing Michael Bourn which means they have money to spend and are in need of a speedy outfielder. They have also expressed a ton of interest. The transition from Tampa to Atlanta would likely be easier for Upton than to Philly or Washington.
Nationals: The Nats aren’t as desperate to fill a spot as their NL East rivals so they likely won’t overspend to get him. Then again, no one thought they’d give Jayson Werth a $126 million deal two years ago.
Rangers: It seems highly unlikely that Hamilton returns which opens the door for Upton. The Rangers would likely be a better fit for him since they would likely put him toward the bottom of the lineup where he performs better.
Indians: The Indians aren’t set on Upton like the Braves and the Phils but they are definitely after an outfielder. More likely they will go with the more affordable Angel Pagan, Cody Ross, or Shane Victorino.
Yankees: As far as I see it, the Yankees are a possibility for any free agent outfielder or pitcher out there. This is a bit of a stretch but with Nick Swisher leaving, the Yanks could definitely use some speed in their lineup.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.