Anybody with passable vision and modest baseball instincts can tell B.J. (Bossman Junior) Upton is a true talent. With the trade deadline looming and the dearth of fairly priced available bats outside of Carlos Beltran, Upton is leaving some “in the hunt” GMs wiping the foam from around their mouths. Power, speed, arm strength, defense, bloodlines … the guy has it all.
Or does he?
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Upton seems to lack motivation and does not appear to respond well to criticism, let alone authority figures. He has had his run-ins with manager Joe Maddon, as well as with star Evan Longoria over “loafing” on a series of defensive plays. So what will it take for “Bossman Junior” to revert to ’07-’08 form and what teams could be solid breeding grounds for his second-half success?
Upton, like most ballplayers like to feel comfortable. When you are not performing well, this is hard to accommodate. In ’07-’08, Upton was hitting anywhere from second to cleanup in the order, where not only did he have the backing of his manager, but was also able to see pitches to hit. Batting prior to players like Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena obviously helps you see more hittable pitches within the black as opposed to high heaters and sweeping sliders in the left-handed batter’s box, which he’s seeing now. In 2007, when Upton saw a fastball, he produced a whopping 23.8 runs above average (wFB). In the current season, he’s at -2.4.
Maddon is known for changing his lineup card on a daily basis, giving hitters like Upton no sense of place or worth when they come in to the ballpark. Furthermore, Upton seems like a player who would respond well to playing with veterans who take their approaches seriously and would not settle for any less out of their teammates. Not to knock Longoria, but he’s younger than Upton and does not have the experience that Upton could revere.
Let’s take a look at the teams currently high on B.J. and see if there would be a good fit:
San Francisco Giants: Andres Torres had a great if not surprise season last year, but he’s playing even worse than Upton in 2011. They are both great defensively so you could slot one over to left and slide Nate Schierholtz back into a fourth outfielder role for optimal defense. Chances are Torres would lose a lot of playing time because the Giants would be making this trade to add pop.
The problem here is that B.J. would immediately become one of the most feared hitters in the lineup leading to him getting fed all the filthy breaking pitches from the Clayton Kershaws and Ubaldo Jimenezes of the NL West. There is not a huge veteran leadership presence on the offensive side in San Francisco, as guys like Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell are more known for their debauchery and humor than their work ethics.
Even though I see Upton struggling here, GM Brian Sabean has the pieces and the willingness to make this happen.
Washington Nationals: Though news has already broke that the Nationals balked at trading prized prospects such as Brad Peacock or Ross Detwiler, don’t count them out. It seems as if every July a particular team is counted out of a trade too early, before swooping in at the last second and landing a stud (a la the Yankees).
I sort of like this landing spot for Upton. A clean slate with some veterans in the National League should bode well for him. Hopefully nobody conjurers up the ghost of Elijah Dukes…
Pittsburgh Pirates: This may be too young of a squad for Upton. He could help take a lot of pressure off tired horses Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen and give them some playoff experience. When it comes down to it though, I don’t see him being a catalyst who can rally the troops if they lose a series to the Reds in September or pick up the slack when Walker and McCutchen start to feel the real pressure of a playoff race.
Milwaukee Brewers: Milwaukee needs a center fielder with Carlos Gomez down. Upton needs a place where he can hit without pressure in the order. How about batting in front of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in a lineup that also includes Rickie Weeks. Here, Upton can work on his craft, and he’ll for sure know that if he slacks or slouches on one ball that this entire team will be down his throat. This is the perfect situation for him but I don’t believe Milwaukee has the prospect depth to pull this off after emptying the farm for past acquisitions.
Kansas City Royals: This is a potential good long-term move for the Royals, but without a playoff race or veteran presence, Upton could maintain status quo here. A 2-3-4 of Upton, Moustakas and Hosmer does sound pretty beefy, though.
Cleveland Indians: He would fill in for Grady Sizemore in center field during the AL Central playoff push. This is a decent lineup that would welcome Upton’s bat but not necessarily need to rely on it. Upton has familiarity with these pitchers and seems like he would acclimate well to the managing style of Manny Acta (more of a player’s manager). As with the Brewers, not sure if the Indians have enough in the farm to pull this off.
Best fit for Upton’s success
San Francisco Giants
Kansas City Royals
Most likely landing spot
San Francisco Giants
Kansas City Royals