B.J. Upton turns down Rays' qualifying offer

 B.J. Upton will likely have new teammates next season. (US Presswire)

Not surprisingly, B.J. Upton has turned down the Rays' qualifying offer and will explore free agency, his agent, Larry Reynolds, told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter).

Upton, 28, will be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market -- CBSSports.com has him ranked the No. 3 outfielder on the market and No. 4 overall player. Our baseball writers recently speculated that he could go to the Phillies, Braves, Mariners or Cubs. Many other teams, including the Nationals, could be interested as well.

Upton hit .246/.298/.454 with 28 home runs, 78 RBI and 31 stolen bases last season. In a different home park, his homer numbers could rise, especially if he goes to someplace like Philadelphia or Chicago.

The No. 2 overall pick of the 2002 draft, Upton debuted with Tampa Bay at 19 in 2004 and was in the big leagues full time by 2007. In parts of eight seasons with the Rays, he's hit .255/.336/.422 with 118 home runs and 232 stolen bases.

The Rays probably won't try to retain Upton, who will be looking for a long-term, big-money deal. The Rays, though, had to make a qualifying offer in order to get a compensatory draft pick for losing him to free agency. 

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