From my experiences in here at DraysBay I feel I could safely say that the majority of readers/commenters prefer to trade B.J. Upton and actually preferred that we had traded him a while ago. The perception is that Upton lacks hustle, that he is lazy, that he watches too many strike three calls down the middle, that he gets picked off too much... Naysayers will find almost any reason to add to the one they believe was good enough to exile a player from the start.
Then there is the crowd that looks at the skill set, the fact that he turns only 27 next week, and his past performances at a young age and believe an extension would be a good idea. They look at a guy who has 20/40 (homerun/stolen base) potential and plays an up-the-middle position and believe that it is very hard to find that type of production in that difficult of a position to play.
I am somewhere in the middle. I get frustrated at the called third strikes down the middle, the lobbed throws when a runner advances, and the pick offs. But I also get excited when I see him reach a ball in center that Melky Cabrera wishes he had a chance to dive for. I get excited when I see the shadow of a player who has that 20/40 potential. But, the question from the beginning begs to be answered: Is B.J. Upton worth extending? Let's take a deeper look.
Since becoming a full-time player in 2007 Upton has been worth 17.7 fWAR and 16.6 rWAR. That's an average of over 3.5 fWAR per season or roughly $14M worth of production. But, he has a regressing triple-slash each year since 2007. Take a quick look:
That's not a pretty sight for a soon-to-be 27 year old. His wOBA also suffers going .387-to-.354-to-.310-to-.337-to-.318 and his fWAR, while averaging better than 3.5 per season, has been up and down going 4.5-to-5.0-to-2.3-to-3.9-to-2.0 so far this season. And, while the fWAR numbers are good, are they really that much better than the rest of the center fielders in the game?
In 2011 his fWAR is actually near the bottom, ranking tied for 16th out of 22 qualified players according to fangraphs. But, since 2007, he ranks 5th out of 22 qualified players although some of those names have moved to a corner outfield spot. But, as you play more with year ranges you will notice that the more you close the year gap the more he falls in the standings. From 2008-2011 he ranked 7th out of 21. From 2009-2011 he ranked 13th out of 22. And since last season he has ranked 14th out of 25.
The question is again brought up: is Upton worth an extension?
After taking a deeper look at the numbers I am inclined to say he is probably worth a 5 year $40M deal but not with the Rays. While most teams can get away with paying roughly $3-4M per win above replacement level the Rays cannot. And while Upton is still undervalued at that rate, the Rays have Desmond Jennings more than ready to take over in center and Brandon Guyer or whomever the Rays can get in a trade involving one of their starting pitchers ready to take over in left field. If the Rays did not have Jennings in their system would the Rays still do the extension? I cannot say, but I can say that given the team's current commodities the Rays would be better off not extending Upton this offseason and using the money to pay for offense elsewhere.