Justin Upton is not a star.
I have been thinking about what Upton will get in free agency. I looked over the numbers, did research on FanGraphs, and really tried to see him from many different angles, including base running, defense, and future production.
Let's face it. Justin Upton is good. He is very good, in fact. But Justin Upton cannot get that next distinction, at least in my mind. He cannot be put in that "star" tier.
While that may sound quite harsh, he will still get paid like a star this offseason. Most guys are getting paid as such. Upton will do quite fine.
But at the same time, Upton, according to FanGraphs, had just one season where he was worth more than five Wins Above Replacement. That came in 2011, while he was still with Arizona.
His past three years have followed a similar narrative. That being good, but not great. Upton has posted a 3.0, a 4.0, and a 3.6 fWAR from 2013 to 2015, respectively. That averages out to a 3.53 fWAR per year. Teams cannot go into negotiations with Upton and think he's the player he was in 2011. Let me tell you a little secret, he's not.
Upton is who he is. He's a guy that strikes out a lot, hits for good power, and provides okay fielding.
But could a team also be buying into what is to come for Upton?
Now that's an interesting thought. While all my column so far has been down on Upton, there's also a lot of positives to signing him in free agency.
His .304 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was among the worst of his career last year, indicating that he was extremely unlucky. Could his .251 batting average really be a .270 mark with better luck? Yes. Could Upton have easily posted an OPS over .800, something he has done time and time again? Yes. Could Upton have been a 4-5 fWAR player? Possibly.
At age-28, teams are going to have to consider a lot before they throw millions of dollars at Upton. They'll have to explore whether his prime is in front of him (I think it could be), how he'll play in their park, and other factors. They'll have to see what other outfielders are getting on the market and base from there how much Upton should receive.
One other thing to consider: Upton posted a .866 OPS at PETCO Park, one of baseball's worst parks for hitters. His average was 50 points better than on the road; his slugging percentage was over 100 points better. And that's at a notoriously bad park for hitters. I can only imagine what he could do at a different home park.
If I was a team, I'd be bullish on Upton, hoping he does well in a more hitter-friendly environment. With that said, however, I would want to see the going rate on fellow outfielders, most specifically Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes. But if I was GM right now, I'd give Justin Upton a six-year, $108 million deal.