We will not know who the Phillies will target on the center field market until we reach the start of the free agent signing period, when Ruben Amaro Jr. and his front office can get a handle on the asking prices. But one name I have heard mentioned in a positive context several times this season is B.J. Upton. And the more I think about it, the more sense it would make for the Phillies to seriously explore adding him to the fold.
We all remember Upton from the 2008 postseason, when he hit seven home runs in 11 games in the ALDS and ALCS to help propel the Rays into a World Series matchup against the Phillies. In the four years since, Upton has failed to live up to the promise he showed as a 22 and 23-year-old, when he hit .286/.384/.452 (.836 OPS) with 33 home runs in 1,005 at-bats over two seasons. Since the start of the 2009 season, he has posted a battling line of .243/.318/.413 for a .731 OPS that ranks 18th among 25 major league center fielders with at least 1,500 plate appearances. But Upton does possess three qualities that are in short supply on the Phillies roster: speed, right-handed power, and upside.
Upton's 70 home runs since 2009 rank ninth among center fielders. When the Phillies traded away Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, they parted with their two most effective right-handed power hitters, at least as far as everyday players are concerned. They are 18-24 in games against left-handed starters this season. Last year, they were 30-14. In 2010, they were 28-20. In his career, Upton has a .261/.366/.428 line against lefties.
Since 2009, Upton has stolen more bases than Shane Victorino. In fact, his 147 steals rank third among center fielders, trailing Michael Bourn and Rajai Davis. His defense is well-regarded. But it is his upside that I think will intrigue the Phillies most. At 27 years old, he is two years younger than Michael Bourn. He is one year younger than John Mayberry Jr. He would be the second-youngest member of the lineup behind Domonic Brown.