Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deadline Rumors: B.J. Upton

Friday night was fun on the Twitterverse as the Rays caused mayhem with their pullings of B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings. Unfortunately for all those who waited for the news, including me, it was nothing more than just a call up for Jennings and demotion for Reid Brignac.

For now, anyway. Tampa Bay is rostering a ton of outfielders at the moment, and Upton has since been all over the Internet regarding trade rumors, so one might think he could be leaving the Rays soon. The Braves are automatically linked based on their needs, and while I don't know of their actual level of interest or if they've inquired, there's no doubt he has been considered by the front office.

Should the Braves target Upton? Yes. He's controlled through 2012, which makes giving up a prospect more bearable, and they will have to dip into the higher tier like Carlos Beltran would cost. Upton provides solid defense and athleticism in center field and on the basepaths; he has a career walk rate of 11.1% and is at 10.3% this season; and he has an above-average bat for the position.

Upton's .232 BA and .312 OBP isn't very attractive, but a .275 BABIP and zone contact percentage above his career average is a sign he could find some more holes in the final two months. That regression seems to already be kicking in, as he has posted a .269/.329/.418 line in July, including six multi-hit games. I would expect more of the same in August and September.

If the Braves are giving up a higher-tiered prospect at the deadline, I would be much more accepting if the return is in an Atlanta uniform for more than two months. Upton can provide a much-needed bat in center field down the stretch and in 2012.

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