ST. PETERSBURG, FL – While the world is all abuzz about Lebron James and his one-hour tell-all-athon, there is another sport that is kicking into high gear. The Major League Baseball All Star game is just days away and arguably the most anticipated trade deadline in all of sports follows that a couple of weeks later.
While I am not much of a believer in the rumor mill, it is exciting to ponder what could be if a general manager was actually working on a formula to craft a deal therefore making the journalist or radio personality the next great psychic.
However, one trade possibility floated by Peter Gammons of the MLB Network intrigued me because this time it doesn’t seem to be one of the Hall of Famer’s patented throw something against the wall and see what sticks. It involves one of the biggest names available and the Tampa Bay Rays.
While I don’t know who his sources are, Gammons alleges the Rays are dangling B.J. Upton to get the talented, top of the rotation lefty from Seattle. Frankly, I don’t believe for one minute that the Mariners would make a one-for-one swap especially for a player with a history of forgetting when it is time to hustle, like running out grounders or chasing down doubles making them triples. He was even called out in a very public way by one of his teammates.
To the average fan Upton comes off as aloof, so low key he can sometimes just blend in to the background unless he is the unintended center of attention. He is not a chest-thumping, look-at-me kind of guy but people still look at him as part of that Devil’s Triangle at Durham with Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young. People should get over that because B.J. is not that type of individual.
There is nothing to indicate Upton has an attitude problem or he is a clubhouse cancer like Dukes, Young or even someone like Greg Vaughn from the Devil Rays days gone by. He is polite and genuine but occasionally gets himself caught up in the most inexcusable sin in baseball – lack of hustle. If he was putting up offensive numbers equal to his talent and continue to show the Gold Glove-caliber defense we have all seen, a Longoria face-to-face would likely take place behind closed doors. But as his struggles continue the little things become more magnified.
So the obvious question here is: Will Andrew Friedman put forth Upton’s name in a possible swap for Lee? The only way the Mariners bite is if another player (a pitcher maybe?) is thrown in the mix and they could be looking up the foot chain at names like Shields or Garza.
Seattle took a chance on a troubled outfielder named Milton Bradley and Upton doesn’t even register on the Richter Magnitude Scale by comparison. It could turn out to be more reward than risk and an opportunity to jettison Bradley at season’s end.
With high flying Jeremy Hellickson clearly ready for the big leagues, giving up a Garza is not much of a risk for the Rays. Sure Garza has a winning record this year (9-5) but the simple fact is he is a .500 pitcher in a Rays’ uniform and his emotions sometimes get the better of him.
Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg has already announced that money will not be a problem for this year (he is still on record as saying he will cut back in 2011) and the price tag for Lee the rest of the way is roughly $4 million. In a way the Rays come out ahead in this deal because Garza and Upton combined are due just over $3 million. With Hellickson making the minimum, prorated, Andrew Friedman will “only” have to fork out about a million of Sternberg’s hard earned greenbacks.
How the Rays come out ahead in this deal is thanks to an MLB rule. For the first time in franchise history the team can trade for a rent-a-player who can walk at the end of the year. Because he is a Type A free agent, the Rays would receive an extra pick in next year’s June Amateur Draft.
Now here is the fun part. Upton, despite all the upside, can be replaced at a savings of more than $3 million. A guy by the name of Desmond Jennings is just waiting for the roster spot to be opened and the team is very high on the 24-year old outfielder. Hellickson has already been slotted into Garza’s spot saving another $3+ million. Carlos Pena is already over the $10 million mark and despite hit home run pop and Gold Glove at first, his asking price for 2011 and beyond may be cost prohibitive.
Being a generous sort, I estimate Tampa Bay would save between $16 and $20 million just on the players mentioned which is more than enough money to pay a guy who needs to stay in St. Petersburg – All Star Carl Crawford.
And of course, Lee gives the Rays their best shot at getting back to the World Series.
Now isn’t that simple?