Are Trade Talks Affecting B.J. Upton's Production?

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 25: B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a triple in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 25, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

As the trade rumors have intensified around B.J. Upton, he's sunk into a deep slump at the plate. Coincidence? Probably. But I think there might be more to it than that.

I feel for B.J. Upton. I really do. He's been subjected to trade talk and speculation for nearly a full month at this point, and the rumors have grown so thick of late, they have become impossible to ignore. Heck, the Rays' broadcasters spent the greater part of the beginning of Wednesday night's game talking about trade rumors, leaving many of us fans wondering if the Rays were actually playing baseball out there somewhere.*

*And judging from the Rays' performance on Wednesday night, that's still a valid question.

But these trade rumors have started coming so hot and heavy, it's becoming obvious that they're getting to B.J. Upton's head. Just reading these quotes, it's impossible not to sympathize with the guy:

"I just got the day off (Sunday). I think that's what it is. I hope that's what it is," Upton said. "It's become a comedy to me. So whatever. There's something new every day - San Fran, Cleveland, Washington, Philly. I mean, what is it? I don't know.

"I'm to the point where I don't even care. If it happens, it happens."

Upton said his preference is to stay with the Rays, and he didn't want to say which of the possible destinations was more appealing. "If I had to go? I don't know," he said. "Still nowhere." (St. Pete Times)

"Now I know how my brother felt this offseason. Anyone hear any good trade rumors this week? Still here!" (Twitter)

"Because I knew you guys (reporters) were standing here waiting for me."

B.J. Upton, on why he spent two hours in the trainers room Wednesday afternoon (St. Pete Times)

How would you like it if your work place could randomly decide to trade you with another company, moving you across the country and into an entirely new workplace at the drop of a hat? Rumors pop up months beforehand, anticipating the move, and you're dogged at every step by reporters trying to get a juicy quote from you. You have no control or say in the matter -- it's just expected that you carry on and keep doing your job.

So it should come as no real surprise that Upton is having a pretty atrocious month of July. He started off the month at a good pace, but his overall line for July is now .241/.302/.392 (.695 OPS). And as the deadline gets closer, his slump has only intensified; he's currently mired in a two-week slide during which he's hit .146/.180/.188.

It's entirely possible that I'm drawing connections here where they don't belong. Upton is a streaky hitter and goes through prolonged slumps, so it's possible that he's simply hit a rough patch and it has nothing to do with the ongoing trade drama. It's all too easy to draw a direct line of causation between stats and outside variables, but doesn't always work like that. Just because crime rates go up in the summer doesn't mean that ice cream sales are causing the spike, and just because a player is slumping doesn't mean trade rumors are the cause.

And yet....I can't shake the notion that the trade rumors are getting to Upton. His quotes have seemed more depressed and resigned as the weeks have gone on, and it seems even Maddon is noticing something. He gave Upton a night off on Wednesday -- his second night off in four games -- because he felt Upton was, "...a little beat up."

If a trade is going to happen, for Upton's sake I hope it's soon. July has not been kind to him.

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