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Trade market for Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton may be growing clear

OAKLAND, Calif. — B.J. Upton said Wednesday that his gut feeling is that he won't be traded by the Rays before Sunday's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver deals.

"I think I'll be here," he said. "I don't think I'm going anywhere."

If so, it might be an upset, given a series of events over recent days that suggest a deal is in the works, topped by Upton being unexpectedly held out of the lineup on Wednesday night.

Or the result of an injury, as Upton told teammates he had been feeling tightness in his left quad. He spent several hours in the trainers room Wednesday afternoon, didn't come on the field for batting practice, and was in the trainers room again when the clubhouse opened after the game.

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged Upton was "a little beat up" but said there was nothing that would have prevented him from playing Wednesday and he will be in their lineup for today's matinee.

"Watching him move out there, I just think he needs a little bit of a break," Maddon said.

The market for Upton is being shaped as the result of several deals made Wednesday. Carlos Beltran, the top outfielder on the market, is set to go from the Mets to the Giants, and Colby Rasmus — whom the Rays reportedly offered Jeff Niemann, J.P. Howell and a prospect for — was shipped from St. Louis to Toronto as part of an 11-player, three-team deal.

The Nationals have long coveted Upton and are considered by some the leading candidate to acquire him. With the Giants out of the mix, the market for Upton would appear to include the Braves (who have an additional need to make a deal with catcher Brian McCann's bat out of their lineup for a while due to injury), the Indians (who were reportedly shunned by Beltran), the Nationals (whom the Rays have been scouting closely) and the Pirates, along with the Phillies and Reds.

There was no deal in place as of the end of Wednesday's game, and Upton said he was not aware anything was close: "There's nothing going on.''

Maddon said there had been a lot of talks on a lot of different possibilities, and "I really don't know how this is all going to shake out.'' He also said he would "love" for Upton, who is hitting .227 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs, to stick around.

But there was plenty of circumstantial evidence, starting with the decision to hold Upton out of the lineup, that a deal could be close. Also, that the Nationals held out two of their young players — shortstop Ian Desmond and catcher Wilson Ramos — who would be the type of players the Rays could want back in a deal. The Pirates pulled one of their top prospects, outfielder Starling Marte, from his game. And the reported offer for Rasmus would indicate the Rays were seeking a replacement for Upton.

Maddon insisted it was just a matter of wanting to give the 26-year-old a break (and to get playing time for Sam Fuld) and that Upton — who was also out of the lineup on Sunday — would play today. "I've just been looking for moments to give B.J. a little bit of a rest, get him off his feet," Maddon said. "He's been going after it pretty hard."

Upton said it was Maddon's decision and that he felt fine.

Maddon acknowledged the potential impact the rumors have had, as Upton was hitting .079 (3-for-38) over his past nine games: "I know all these different things that are being swirled about have got to have some kind of an impact on him, too.''

Upton said he had stopped paying attention to the possibilities and didn't even know of the Beltran deal until he got to the stadium. "I'm not looking at what teams and what they're doing, it's got nothing to do with me,'' he said. "It's to the point now there's so many teams and so many rumors I don't even worry about it."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Rays offered a package of Niemann, Howell and an unnamed prospect for Rasmus, but the Cards wanted Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields, whom the Reds reportedly remain interested in. ESPN's Buster Olney reported the Rays offered the choice of Niemann, Wade Davis or rookie Alex Cobb.

Trade market for Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton may be growing clear 07/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 2:26am]
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