When discussing baseball players, the media, the fans, and the players themselves all go to the numbers. But the numbers for B.J. Upton are misleading. He’s not been as productive, and certainly not as consistent, as his career figures might indicate.
The Atlanta Braves, and more precisely ex-GM Frank Wren, did not use their heads when they signed Upton (along with a good signing of B.J.’s younger brother Justin) to a five-year, $75.25MM after the 2012 season. Upton’s career splits in his eight seasons in Tampa Bay were average – .255/.336/.422 and despite averaging 25 HRs, 79 RBI, and 38 stolen bases his last two season with the Rays, there were warning signs.
The elder Upton’s home splits in 2011 were .209/.300/.374; a year later he posted an .814 oPS at home, but .687 on the road. He had also had a miserable first half in 2012 with a .679 OPS in 71 games. His second half surge (21 HR 49 RBI in 71 games) made his overall numbers look better and certainly influenced Atlanta’s decision to sign him.
Politics can play a big part in awards and rewards, but Upton never made an All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger Award or a Gold Glove. The Braves paid the then 28-year old as if he was that type of player. His two years in Atlanta couldn’t have been much more disastrous than they were. A Brendan Ryan-like .557 OPS in 2013 (including a .184 batting average), followed by a .620 OPS last season. He had 33 doubles and 21 home runs…in two seasons combined.
The Braves can’t get rid of Upton fast enough, but who is going to take him? The Braves will have to eat much of the $46MM-plus still owed to him to have any chance of a deal. Even then, they are not going to get more than middling prospects and no Major League talent, unless it’s swapping one bad contract for another. Justin Upton becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. The Braves may have to deal the “good” Upton in order to keep the senior Upton.
Let the buyer beware.