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Tampa Bay Rays, B.J. Upton could both emerge as losers in arbitration hearing

Going to an arbitration hearing with CF B.J. Upton isn't good for either side.

Both insisted they tried hard to work out a deal before the Rays' self-imposed Tuesday deadline, but it became obvious they wouldn't. It only looked worse a few hours later when the filings revealed how close they were — merely the $300,000 difference between the $3 million the Rays offered and the $3.3 million agent Larry Reynolds requested. (Only three of the 43 filings had smaller gaps.)

So sometime next month, in a St. Petersburg hotel, there will be a hearing and all the messiness that can occur as each side defends its case with the potential of offending the other.

By getting to this point, Upton risks further damaging his reputation, already scarred by previous lack-of-hustle incidents and past contract issues (renewals, perceived lack of interest in a long-term deal). And if he has a bad season, it will be an ongoing theme.

By going forward, the Rays risk alienating, or even "losing," one of the players most key to their success, a still-just 25-year-old who beneath the occasional scowl is something of a sensitive type.

"As we have said, there are no winners in the arbitration process," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We are looking forward to getting past this and focusing on getting back to playing in October."

There hasn't been much from the Upton camp on how he'll handle this. But in a Thursday MLB Network appearance with brother Justin, B.J. said he had put the lingering effects of his shoulder surgery and disappointment of last season behind him and was feeling great.

"Pretty much better than I've ever felt in any offseason," he said. "I'm excited to get back playing baseball."

More arbitration: There was brief talk with RHP Matt Garza about a multiyear deal, according to agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, with the understanding on both sides to "possibly re-explore in the future." Garza, meanwhile, is "pleased with the outcome" (a one-year, $3.35 million deal) and excited to pitch. … SS Jason Bartlett was very interested in a multiyear deal, but the Rays weren't for now; you wonder if he will be as much next year when he's one season from free agency.

STADIUM STUMBLINGS: Peter Gammons, now working for mlb.com and the MLB Network, rips on the Rays' market and stadium situation and writes: "There are smart people in the Major League Baseball offices wondering if there's hope of even discussing a potential move of the Rays to New Jersey or Southern Connecticut over certain protests from the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and Phillies."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: C Alvin Colina, who has three years Triple-A experience and two 2006 games with the Rockies, will join the spring roster after signing a minor-league deal. Expect a few other additions as the Rays survey a free agent market that may yield bargains. … Look for a new sky blue cap (mlb.com is selling it now) for spring training and road game batting practice, and potentially another uniform change coming. … SportsBusiness Daily reports the Rays are one of four teams the players union will watch in regard to payroll spending and revenue sharing. … According to the team Web site, weeknight games, including Friday, will start at 7:10, Sundays at 1:40 and Saturdays split between afternoons and evenings. … European/Australian scout John Gilmore, who signed LHP Stepan Havlicek from the Czech Republic, said, "Playing in the (2008) World Series has certainly made international players aware of the Rays." … OF Gabe Kapler was among the runnersup to Boston's Kevin Youkilis for the Jewish major-leaguer of the decade.

Tampa Bay Rays, B.J. Upton could both emerge as losers in arbitration hearing 01/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 23, 2010 8:56pm]

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