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B.J. Upton open to long-term deal with Tampa Bay Rays

TAMPA — B.J. Upton was in a generous mood Monday, hosting a charity golf tournament that benefits the homeless.

And a conciliatory one.

Upton not only assured that his pending arbitration hearing — no matter the result — won't affect his preparation or mind-set for the upcoming season but came out with his strongest expression of interest yet in signing a long-term deal with the Rays.

"You know what? I'm definitely all for that," Upton said before teeing off at Hunter's Green. "I love the city of Tampa, and I'd definitely love to be here for an extensive period of time. If that's something that they want to talk about, I'm definitely open ears for it."

Ultimately, the numbers will matter more than the words. But Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the interest is mutual.

"B.J. is a very important part of this organization, and we would like for him to remain so for the foreseeable future," he said. "While we don't discuss specifics on contracts or potential contracts, we are, of course, open to exploring a long-term deal with B.J."

Unless there is a multiyear deal, the sides will participate in a potentially contentious hearing Feb. 12 over a small amount — the difference between the Rays' $3 million offer and Upton's $3.3 million request.

Upton said there is no concern — "not at all" — that a negative experience at the hearing will show up on the field.

"It's unfortunate that it had to come to this, but I think … we both understand that's the business," he said. "Both sides will do what we need to do, but at the end I think the main goal is to win a championship."

Note: The tourney was expected to raise more than $25,000 for the Society of St. Vincent DePaul.

B.J. Upton open to long-term deal with Tampa Bay Rays 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 11:52pm]
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