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MLB Trade Rumors: Why Justin Upton Isn't the Answer for Pittsburgh Pirates

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 07:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up on deck during the MLB game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field on July 7, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Tim KeeneyContributor INovember 19, 2016

The Pittsburgh Pirates are one or two pieces away from being legitimate World Series contenders. 

Justin Upton, however, is that annoying four-holed piece, while Pittsburgh simply needs an edge piece. He's not the answer to their puzzle.

The news of Pittsburgh's interest in the budding young right fielder has been evident for a while, but Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi recently confirmed the news:

Arizona right fielder Justin Upton would be the biggest prize, and sources say the Pirates have remained in contact with Diamondbacks officials. 

Ridiculous puzzle metaphors aside, this simply shouldn't be the player Neal Huntington targets as the trade deadline approaches.

Is Upton young and talented? No question. This is a former No. 2 prospect, who last year, at the tender age of 23, hit 31 home runs and slugged .529, finishing fourth in MVP voting. 

Despite the young age, he already has six years of MLB experience and over 650 games played under his belt. 

Inserting Upton, one of the game's brightest young players, into the cleanup spot behind Andrew McCutchen would not only improve Pittsburgh's overall offense, which ranks ninth in the NL in runs scored, but it would also give Cutch even more pitches to hit.

It scares me a little bit to think what he would do with more pitches to hit. 

But every trade possibility always has "pros" to it. This one is certainly no different. The "cons," however, greatly outweigh those limited positives. 

For starters, Upton has taken a huge step back in 2012. Despite playing in Arizona's hitter's heaven—Chase Field is third in the majors in home runs per game—Upton is slugging a mediocre .393. He has just seven home runs in 83 games.

What's worse are his splits on the road, where his slugging drops to .350 and he has just three home runs in 44 games. 

While we're on his splits, Upton has a career .371 slugging percentage at PNC Park. He has hit zero home runs in 43 plate appearances. The sample is small, sure, but Upton's No. 1 quality—his ability to hit for power—would be minimized in a pitcher's park. 

So there are certainly worries about Upton's ability to provide necessary production. He would be an upgrade, obviously. But is it a big enough upgrade over Garrett Jones (12 home runs, slugging .493) in right field to warrant giving up Starling Marte or Jameson Taillon—or even worse, both?

I wouldn't think so. 

What you also need to remember is that the Pirates are a small-market club. Their payroll in 2012 is right around $52 million, one of the smallest in the league. Upton is owed right around $39 million over the next two years.

Adding him to the payroll severely limits Pittsburgh's ability to go after any other big names in the future.

Instead, as far as 2012 goes, why not trade for rentals? Huntington would add the necessary pieces for this 49-40 squad to make a run at the World Series without seriously putting the future in danger. 

Justin Upton is an incredibly intriguing target. His immense talent would make any general manager drool just a little bit. But in Pittsburgh's situation, he just doesn't make enough sense. 

 

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