Before you say, “But B.J. Upton isn’t a reliever,” there’s good reason the New York Mets should trade for Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton. With recent rumors about the Rays dangling Upton to the Nationals for Michael Morse, one has to think that the Mets can easily best that–and might need to if they want to stay relevant in the NL East.
Despite being one of the elite playmakers in baseball going into the 2012 season, the 27 year-old Upton has only posted a .244/.303/.373 line with 8 HR, 31 RBI, 36 R, and 15 SB in 332 PA’s, and his usually steady glove has been particularly bad this season (-8.4 UZR/150). Yet, it’s hard to ignore the type of production the still-youngster has under his belt, and could continue to provide if he were to see a scenery change. Sliding him into center field would also provide Kirk with a starting job in right-field (or if one were to want to slide Jason Bay over there), and instantly improve the Mets outfield defense in general.
Upton has never been much of an average hitter (career .257 hitter between 2007 and 2011), but with under-appreciated on-base skills (.346 OBP and 11.65% BB%), high-shelf speed (186 stolen bases), very good pop (85 HR, .425 SLG, .167 ISO), and a Gold Glove-caliber glove (five straight seasons of a positive UZR/150, including three seasons of 7.0+ UZR/150), surely he’s worth more than Michael Morse, who has fizzled (.289/.307/.409) after just one great power season (.303/.360/.550), and is a terrible defender (-8.2 UZR/150 at 1B in 2011, and -21.6 UZR/150 at OF in 2011). Oh, and Morse is 30 years-old and will make $6.75 million in 2013.
So if the Rays should forget about Morse and start wheelin’ and dealin’ with the New York Mets, who will be Tampa-bound? Two words: Lucas Duda. Like Morse, Duda isn’t much of a fielder (-38.9 UZR/150 at OF in 2012), but unlike Morse, he is a very patient hitter. Duda owns a 11.9% BB%, rarely swings outside the strikezone (23.6% O-Swing%), and has the makings of a power hitter (.189 ISO in 2011). In addition–and perhaps, most importantly–the left-handed hitter is just 26 years-old, makes league minimum, and is under team-control for awhile. Assuming the Mets could make some sort of high-incentive-based contact extension for the impending free-agent Upton, the trade would be a no brainer for both sides. Duda’s approach to the plate and low overhead cost make him a prototypical Tampa Bay Rays player, so if it’s between Morse and Duda, one has to think the Rays would prefer Duda.
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