ST. PETERSBURG — The split technically won't be official until he signs a megamillion-dollar contract elsewhere, but centerfielder B.J. Upton all but said goodbye to the Rays on Friday when he formally rejected their one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer.
"I'm looking forward to exploring the free agent process and seeing what happens," Upton, 28, said in a text message. "This decision doesn't necessarily close the door on the Rays, but now it's time to focus on the next phase of my career."
The decision was expected, as Upton is positioned for a big deal, somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million over five years. The Phillies and Nationals have been considered the most likely landing spots, but several other clubs are expected to be interested. Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino are the other top centerfielders on the market.
The Rays made the qualifying offer because of new MLB rules that require it in order for a team losing a free agent to get a compensatory draft pick, added at the end of the first round.
Though a return seems unlikely, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said there still could be talks with Upton. "This decision doesn't preclude us from continuing our dialogue with B.J.," he said. "All it does is ensure that we receive something of value if B.J. signs elsewhere."
The Rays have five other free agents: DH Luke Scott, infielders Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Peña, and relievers Kyle Farnsworth and J.P. Howell.
Celebrated executive Lee MacPhail dies
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Lee MacPhail, the longtime executive who ruled in the George Brett pine tar case and later became part of the only father-son Hall of Fame pairing, died. He was 95. Mr. MacPhail, who was the oldest living Hall of Famer, died Thursday at his home in Delray Beach.
"There's not much I haven't done off the field other than commissioner," he said during a 1985 interview with the Associated Press when he retired after 4½ decades in the sport.
In the second generation of one of baseball's most prominent families — his son Andy also was in the front office for several teams — Mr. MacPhail's most well-known moment came in 1983. He upheld Kansas City's protest in the Pine Tar Game against the Yankees, restoring a ninth-inning homer to the Royals' Brett.
"His hallmarks were dignity, common sense and humility," commissioner Bud Selig said. "He was not only a remarkable league executive, but was a true baseball man."
Red Sox great Bobby Doerr, 94, becomes the oldest living Hall of Famer.
Hamilton rejects offer: The maximum length deal that the Rangers are willing to re-sign slugger Josh Hamilton for is three years, USA Today reported. The team had made a qualifying offer just below the $13.75 million that he received in 2012, and the outfielder declined. GM Jon Daniels has said the team is preparing for futures with and without the former top draft pick of the Rays in 1999.
Other offers: Right-hander Kyle Lohse turned down the Cardinals' $13.3 million offer and becomes a free agent. Also rejecting the one-year guaranteed offers were the Yankees' Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda, along with Boston's David Ortiz, Atlanta's Michael Bourn and Washington's Adam LaRoche.
Under baseball's new labor contract, all the deadlines of the business season have been speeded up in an attempt to prompt quicker decisions before the Christmas holidays. That should create more activity in the market before the winter meetings in Nashville, Dec. 3-6.
Mets: GM Sandy Alderson said the team wants to sign Cy Young candidate R.A. Dickey to a long-term deal but added that Dickey could be traded soon thereafter, ESPN.com reported. The Mets have picked up the 2013 options on Dickey and third baseman David Wright.
Nationals: The team is nearing a deal to bring manager Davey Johnson back for 2013, GM Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post. Johnson, 69, was under contract as a consultant for 2013 and '14.
Rockies: The team introduced former shortstop Walt Weiss as its manager. His only head coaching job was at Regis Jesuit High in Aurora, Colo., where he led his son's team to a 20-6 record and a spot in the state semifinals in the spring. He has a one-year deal to turn around a club coming off a franchise-worst 64-98 season.
Information from Times wires contributed to this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]mpabay.com.