Any pursuit of J. Upton has a hitch for now - B.J. Upton
Of course the Rays would have interest in Arizona OF Justin Upton, as reports out of the GM meetings in California indicate.
In some ways, he's exactly what they're looking for: A young (25), dynamic hitter with an impact bat (career OPS .832) being made available at potentially not too high a trade cost and signed to a somewhat reasonable contract for the next three seasons ($9.75-million in 2013, $14.25M in 2014, $14.5M in 2015).
But the Rays have an odd, unique, and somewhat ironic, issue standing in their pursuit: B.J. Upton.
They can't afford to have both Uptons.
The older Upton is set to leave the Rays as a free agent, seeking a big deal elsewhere, something like $75-million over five years, with the Phillies and Nats considered two of the most likely landing spots. The Rays made B.J. the one-year $13.3-million qualifying offer required to get draft pick compensation when he leaves, and under the new MLB rules, he has until Friday to accept or reject.
The assumption - a near certainty - all along has been that B.J. will decline and head elsewhere. But the Rays, given their limited resources, will have to wait until he officially does before they can commit to spending money elsewhere.
Could the Rays' reported interest in Justin change B.J.'s thinking?
The Uptons have talked about their desire to play together at some point. B.J. told me at the end of the season that eventually they will find a way to make it happen - "We're going to do it'' - and it's possible it could be sooner than later.
But it's just not going to happen with the Rays right now
And the Rays need to be sure B.J. knows that that.
Then once they get past that - assuming Justin hasn't been traded yet, as the Rangers are considered most actively involved, and seemingly a better fit - they can get on with plotting their pursuit, figuring out if there really is a match (since the D'backs are supposedly looking for infield bats, which the Rays need as well), if they have to get a third team involved, if there is any way to reduce some of the money they'd be taking on, etc.