Philadelphia Phillies: Brotherly Love and the Upton Brothers
Saturday November 3rd, 2012
Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer): Both B.J. Upton and his younger brother Justin will be available this offseason. Bossman Junior (B.J.) will be a top centerfield free agent option, and Justin signed a lucrative 6-year deal just two years ago, is widely known to be on the trading block from Arizona. The Upton brothers are the two highest drafted brothers in sports history. B.J. was a second overall pick in 2002 and Justin, the first overall pick of the 2005 draft. They have both had ups and downs in their young careers, but both have performed extremely well and shown glimpses of brilliance. Justin has already cashed in on his first big major league contract, and B.J. is looking to so this offseason. Where B.J. will sign, we will find out over the next months. But one thing that is clear…he makes since for just about any team out there.
The Philadelphia Phillies are one of those teams that could envision B.J. Upton gracefully patrolling centerfield for 162 games. As a premier center fielder facing free agency, B.J. as become far too expensive a commodity for the Rays to retain going forward. He plays top-notch defense in centerfield and has a cannon for an arm. All he did in 2012 as 27-year-old (in his 8th year in the MLB) was hit 29 doubles, 28 home runs and steal 31 bags. Yes, with this amazing tool set that combines defense with speed and power comes a lifetime .255 batting average and about 150 strikeouts a year. There are weaknesses in every player’s game, but B.J. Upton’s strengths make him a very attractive target for any team that doesn’t have Joe DiMaggio manning centerfield.
There is no doubt that B.J.’s speed and power will fit very nicely into the Phillies lineup along with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. We have to also consider what it is going to take to get B.J. signed to a contract. Right now, we know that the Tampa Bay Rays have offered B.J. a qualifying offer. While the chances of B.J. agreeing to this are virtually ‘zero’, it does mean that whoever signs B.J. is going to have to sacrifice their first round draft pick next year to Tampa. For a team like Philadelphia that can afford to sign top free agents, giving up a top prospect is an acceptable part of doing business.
Now we have to look at what kind of money B.J. is likely to demand. The other top free agent center fielders in the market include Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan (Jacoby Ellsbury is reportedly being dangled as trade bait in Boston). Michael Bourn and B.J. have been by far the most coveted by baseball GM’s thus far, with Bourn arguably being the stronger of the top two. Recent contracts given to center fielders in the past several years dictate that both of these players can reasonably expect 4-5 year deals in the $60-80 million range. That’s what it takes nowadays in this expensive business to secure yourself a top, young, studly center fielder. They are rare specimens, no doubt!
One thing we know for a fact is that the Phillies are going to have to resolve their centerfield issue this offseason. They are not going to 2013 with John Mayberry up the middle, that much is for sure. There seem to be very few other solutions to their centerfield predicament internally, and a trade or acquiring a free agent seems to be the most likely option. That being said, the only outfielder that is seemingly a “lock” (to some degree) to be starting next year is Domonic Brown. While the Phillies have a powerhouse infield, I do not think that the Phans of Philadelphia will be too understanding of a Darin Ruf/Nate Schierholtz platoon. Domonic Brown is a highly touted prospect that seems to be establishing some kind of footing as a big leaguer and is an acceptable option for left field. Right field, however, is another story.
Enter Justin Upton. B.J.’s younger brother is in so many ways a carbon copy of B.J. himself. Take away a little speed and add a little better ability to hit for average. At the age of 22, Justin had already paid dividends to the Arizona Diamondbacks for drafting him with their first overall pick in the 2005 draft…so they rewarded him with a 6-year,$51 million deal prior to the 2010 season. He followed his stunning 2009 season with another solid season, although it was a notable decline from the previous season’s numbers. Then in 2011 he performed brilliantly garnering his second All-Star election, a Silver Slugger award, and ranking 4th overall in National League MVP voting. 2012 followed his remarkable 2011 much the same way that 2010 followed 2009…with overall solid production, but less than what the Arizona front office had began to expect from their young super-star. This led the Diamondback’s brass to put him on the hot seat prior to the 2012 trade deadline, and it is still well publicized that they are willing to relieve themselves of the expenses tied to Justin remaining in Phoenix.
The argument that having both of the talented Upton brothers on your team is hardly a difficult argument to defend. Ultimately, you will have two players that play great defense, steal 25-30 bases a year, hit 25-40 home runs and about 30 doubles. These guys would fit well in any teams depth chart and compliment any teams lineup very well.
There is a difference, however, between dreams and reality. To actually make this happen takes financial commitment. These two guys cost a lot of money…because they’re some of the best at what they do. Philadelphia has one of baseball’s greatest fanbases, but also some of the most demanding ones in the game. After a disappointing 2011 season, you can expect that ownership is feeling pressure to open up their wallets. The Phillies already have a lot of dollars tied up with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
But the Upton brothers provide what seems to actually be a bargain, as far as bargains come these days in baseball. Both of them are young, but due to their early breaks into the MLB they are essentially veterans and have proven track records. To secure two players that can be expected to put up the kind of numbers these two guys have become accustomed to, the price is right. Justin Upton has $42.5 million left on his contract that runs through 2015 and will likely require sending some kind of talent back to Arizona in addition to salary relief. As noted before, B.J. will likely garner a 4-year deal at about $60 million. In my personal opinion (not my wallet), securing two players of this caliber as cornerstones in your outfield is well worth the approximate $100 million over the next 3-4 years.
To me, getting 2 players who can steal 30 bases, 2 players who can hit 30 home runs, play stellar defense and hit a combined 60 doubles for $100 million…is a more sensible move than signing Josh Hamilton to an 8-year, $200 million contract. It has much less risk, and ties up money for a shorter period of time while arguably providing more in return as well.
Acquiring both B.J. Upton and Justin Upton is an offseason bargain available to any teams willing to spend the money and expend a few prospects and a draft pick. After an upsetting 2012, the Phanatics are going to demand different results in 2013 and David Montgomery should open his checkbook and write two checks to Justin and B.J. Upton. Bring the Upton Brothers to The City of Brotherly Love (and maybe a World Championship)!
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***
Alex Mednick is a Baseball Writer and Analyst with MLB Reports. He has both played and followed the game extensively his entire life. Alex grew up in New Haven, Connecticut—right in the crossroads of Red Sox Nation and The Yankee Empire. Somehow, he dodged the bullet of joining the war between these two teams, and a love affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and Alex formed. Growing up in Connecticut, Alex Mednick idolized Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. When he was 19 he moved to Saint Petersburg, Florida. Here he attended Eckerd College and continued fulfilling his love for baseball. Tropicana Field was 5 minutes from his apartment, and there were 5 spring training camps within an hour drive. Alex graduated from Eckerd in 2010 with a B.S. in International Business and dual minors in Spanish and Management. Most importantly, he met his amazing wife in college, and the two now reside in Stuart, Florida.
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Posted on November 3, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged alex mednick, alexander ewing mednick, angel pagan, arizona diamondbacks, b.j. upton, bossman junior, chase utley, citizens bank ballpark, Citizens Bank Park, cliff lee, darin ruf, david montgomery, diamondbacks, Domonic Brown, jacoby ellbury, jimmy rollins, joe dimaggio, john mayberry, john mayberry Jr., josh hamilton, justin upton, melky, melky cabrera, michael bourn, mlb reports, nick shierholtz, philadelphia, philadelphia phillies, phillie phanatic, phillies, rays, roy halladay, ryan howard, shane victorino, tampa bay devil rays, upton. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.