George Christian Pappas, ESPN Radio ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When the clock struck 1 p.m. PT Sunday at Safeco Field, B.J. Upton stopped playing catch in the outfield, raised his arms and said, "Word, I'm still here."
Upton was one of the Rays' players most associated with trade rumors leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but was not dealt. He said approaching the Deadline was "probably the most nerve-wracking two weeks" he'd ever had. "I've always said I want to be here," Upton said. "I grew up playing with these guys, a lot of good guys on this team, a good organization. So I'm glad it's over with. We can move forward and just try to win ballgames." But in that two-week span, Upton fared 5-for-52 (.096) as the Rays dropped from 4 1/2 out of first place to 10 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and Yankees at the Deadline. It's surprising the team DIDN'T have a fire sale. It would be absolutely remarkable if Joe Maddon's club could close that gap in the standings, but it is about as likely to occur as the Rays tearing the dome off Tropicana Field to finally have an open-air stadium. By all accounts, that just isn't going to happen, not with the Yankees pounding away at the competition, the Red Sox winning on back-to-back walk-offs and the City of Tampa lobbying for the ball club to move to the other side of the bay. The Rays' progression in this season marked by non-existent run support for the pitching staff, scattered offensive explosions and Evan Longoria's first down-year is reminiscent of the 2009 club. Recall that the team remained five games out of the wild card until the front office dealt Scott Kazmir to the Angels at the end of August. The Rays plummeted in September, going 11-17 to round out the season at 19 games out of first. Though the organization could consider similar moves with Upton or even All-Star James Shields, players would have to clear waivers before any such deal could be completed, meaning general manager Andrew Friedman will likely wait until the off-season before shopping players. With Upton, the consensus is that the Rays weren't flattered with what they could get in return for their everyday center fielder. That likely won't change before the end of the season. The Washington Nationals had shown interest in Upton since early June but no deal came to fruition. The Rays and Upton avoided arbitration in January, agreeing to a one-year, $4.825 million contract (Mark Topkin, St. Petersburg Times). The contract situation made rumors for Upton's departure more compelling nearing the Deadline. Upton, his agent and the team will have to resume talks after the season or else he could find another ballpark to call home for the coming year.And Shields, for example, will be sought-after. Word trickled around the league that the Rays were not going to part with 'Complete-Game' James before the Deadline -- after all, he is leading the staff in almost every pitching category. Shields hasn't had this much upside since posting a 14-8 record in 2008, after he signed a four year deal for $11.25 million. He has ranked in the top-10 in E.R.A. in the American League throughout the season, and his 1.06 WHIP is seventh-best among the Junior Circuit's arms. The club has three options to keep him in a Rays uniform through 2014, with a number of incentives that could net Shields as much as $44 million over seven seasons if exercised (according to The Process Report). Friedman's asking price for Shields would be steeper than, say, Matt Garza's after last year. Garza snapped back from an 8-12 season in 2009 and cracked the A.L top-10 with 15 wins in 2010. Accordingly, the Cubs sent a package of prospects, including their organization's top prospect, pitcher Chris Archer, middle infielder Hak-Ju Lee, the legendary Sam Fuld, outfielder Brandon Guyer and catcher Robinson Chirinos.
Sir Charles with the slam