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Rays trade rumors: Tampa Bay considered front-runners to add Justin Upton

Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox reportedly out of the running for Upton.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The Texas Rangers are not willing to trade either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar for Justin Upton, leaving the Tampa Bay Rays as the favorites to land the Arizona Diamondbacks star right fielder, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

"If that is indeed the case — and if the Rangers cannot find some other way to structure a deal for Upton — then the Rays might emerge as the front-runner, according to rival executives."

Among the players Rosenthal listed that could be sent to Arizona were James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and minor league shortstop Hak-Ju Lee. Earlier reports indicated that both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were unlikely to make a run at Upton.

Tampa Bay's payroll was roughly $64 million in 2012, and Upton is owed $38.5 million over the next three seasons. Shields is set to make $10.25 million in 2013, making it likely he'd be included in any trade involving Upton if the Rays plan on maintaining a lower payroll.

It was reported earlier this month that Hellickson, not Shields, has been the pitcher teams have been more interested in so far this offseason. John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked Lee the 78th-best prospect in baseball in his most recent Top 120 Prospect List.

Justin's older brother, B.J. Upton, rejected Tampa Bay's one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer yesterday, and is now a free agent. The exit of the elder Upton has created a need in the Rays' outfield.