Yankees Trade Rumors: Why Justin Upton Is the Key to Younger, Balanced Lineup

Ian Casselberry@iancassMLB Lead WriterJuly 16, 2012

One of the players attracting the most buzz two weeks from the July 31 trade deadline is Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton. Could he end up with the Pittsburgh Pirates? The Texas Rangers? Perhaps the Atlanta Braves

ESPN.com's Jason Churchill thinks Upton would be a great fit for the New York Yankees, though there have been no rumors attaching team and player yet. Starting pitching is likely the priority for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, and you have to think that's where he'll concentrate his resources over the next two weeks.

Should the Yankees be interested in Upton, however? More importantly, should they pursue the opportunity to add a younger position player as the current lineup becomes older? Robinson Cano and Russell Martin are the only regular starters under 30 years old. Even Curtis Granderson, who seems like one of the team's younger stars, is 31. 

Getting Upton this season would also add depth to the batting order, giving the Yankees seven formidable hitters to bat in a row. Upton's right-handed bat could fit nicely between switch-hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher. Next season, when Swisher likely moves on, Upton could take over in right field and provide possibly the best No. 6 hitter in the league. 

It should be mentioned that Upton does have the Yankees listed on his no-trade clause, as reported by ESPN's Buster Olney. That obviously presents an obstacle to making such a deal happen. But does Upton have the Yankees on his no-trade because he doesn't want to go there or because he'd rather see what they could someday offer on the open market?

If it's the latter, the Yankees could offer a contract extension to get that no-trade clause waived. 

Not only is Upton only 24 years old, but he's under team control for another three years for a total salary of $38.5 million. Paying $13 million per season is less than what it would take to sign a top free-agent outfielder like Josh Hamilton. It might be more than Shane Victorino or B.J. Upton would cost. But would you rather have those players or Justin Upton?

Of course, getting Upton through trade would cost the Yankees some prospects and maybe a major leaguer they'd prefer not to give up. Would Brett Gardner be a part of a Yankees-Diamondbacks trade? Maybe, though the D-Backs have plenty of young outfielders, which is why Upton is presumably expendable. 

Actually, the Yankees might not have the prospects necessary to get Upton. Not when the Rangers can offer a third prospect ready for the majors like Mike Olt. Though the Yankees could offer pitching prospects like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, both players have struggled or battled injuries this year. Compare that to a team like the Braves, who could offer a Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado. 

Churchill brings up an intriguing idea to think about, though I wonder how practical it is for this season. As mentioned, pitching is the more urgent concern right now. Trading for Upton might not help the Yankees as much in the short term, but the long-term benefits are apparent.

If this were still the George Steinbrenner era, trading for Upton might have a better chance of happening. If The Boss really wanted Upton on his team, Cashman would somehow get it done, even if he didn't necessarily think it was the right move. 

However, if the Diamondbacks don't trade Upton this season and he's available during the winter, the Yankees might try to get this done. 

Getting Upton during the offseason might also give the Yankees coaching staff more time to work with Upton and fix his swing, as hitting coach Kevin Long did with Granderson. ESPN's Mark Simon provided evidence for Upton's struggles, showing that he's exhibiting poor strike-zone judgment and hitting fewer balls in the air. 

Pitching presumably won't be the immediate concern in the offseason, and Cashman can look more seriously at making his roster younger and ensuring that the Yankees don't get too old too fast. 


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