Upton open to long-term deal with Rays

Upton open to long-term deal with Rays

TAMPA, Fla. -- B.J. Upton would entertain a long-term deal if the Rays and he can come to an agreement.

"You know what, I'm definitely all for that," said Upton prior to tee-off time for the Second Annual B.J. Upton Celebrity Golf Classic Monday at Tampa's Hunter's Green Country Club. "I love the city of Tampa and I'd love to be here for an extensive period of time. So if that's something they want to talk about, I definitely have open ears for it."

Once again the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was the beneficiary of the charity event, which is expected to raise approximately $25,000 this year. Upton hopes to make the event a staple for the future. Among those attending Monday were: Upton, Justin Upton, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Derek Shelton, Joey Gathright and Matt Diaz.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which sits a few blocks away from where Upton patrols center field at Tropicana Field, provides three meals a day, 365 days a year for the hungry and homeless of St. Petersburg. It also provides a night shelter and other services for those in need.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman also sounded open to discussing a contract.

"B.J. is a very important part of this organization and we would like for him to remain so for the foreseeable future," he said. "While we don't discuss specifics on contracts or potential contracts, we are, of course, open to exploring a long term deal with B.J."

Since the Rays and Upton could not come to an agreement last week, the Rays center fielder faces a February date at an arbitration hearing to determine whether he will make $3 million or $3.3 million in 2010.

"I think it's unfortunate that it had to come to this, but I think both sides understand that," Upton said. "We both understand that's the business and if that's what needs to happen, that's what needs to happen."

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of the arbitration process that both sides were "culpable" for not getting a deal done and that "both sides lose" when a case goes to a hearing. Upton agreed with the sentiments of Friedman.

"I don't think anybody ever wants to actually go to a hearing," Upton said. "I think they understand and I understand."

Of concern any time a player goes to arbitration are the negative feelings that can be created during the hearing. There are many who believe that those negative feelings created in Dioner Navarro's arbitration hearing last year contributed to the Rays catcher's subpar season in 2009. Win or lose, Upton doesn't anticipate the hearing affecting his play in 2010.

"No, not at all," Upton said. "It's just kind of the way the business is and you know what it is going into it and you're prepared for it, so, like I said both sides will do what they need to do, but the main goal is to win championships."

While teams can continue to negotiate with players right up until their arbitration hearings, the Rays' self-imposed policy is to conclude their negotiating by the numbers filing deadline. The exception to this post-filing numbers deadline is to negotiate a multiyear deal.

Aside from the business of baseball, Upton looked in top shape Monday and in good spirits as well, all for good reason.

"I'm in the best shape I've ever been heading into a season," Upton said. "I'm more excited, definitely after coming off the year I had last year. I'm just ready to go and help this team win ballgames."

Upton finished strong in 2009, but had a disappointing season as he hit .241 with 11 home runs, 55 RBIs and 42 stolen bases. Within those numbers came the distinction of being the first player in Rays history to hit for the cycle. In addition, he stole home, making him the first Major Leaguer since Houston's Jeff Bagwell to hit for the cycle and steal home in the same season.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.