Enter the midseason trade, MLB's great equalizer.
And enter right fielder Justin Upton, Arizona's greatest trade piece in 2012.
After slugging his way to a career-high 31 home runs in 2011, Upton has fallen off the pace in 2012—his batting average is down 16 points, his OPS is off by nearly 150 and barely halfway through the 2012 season, Upton is poised to set a career high in that disdainable category known as "caught stealing."
Upton is a star—he has been described as a "trade-deadline prize"—and he has several teams dialing Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers' phone number.
With all cards set to hit the table, these are five potential Justin Upton Deadline Blockbusters, complete with team-specific analysis from columnists familiar with all the pieces.
This is a popular rumor and for good reason—According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Upton will be traded. So how about Atlanta, asks Buster Olney?
Well, how 'bout it?
Braves FC Matt Powers:
I've been torn on this from the moment I heard any rumor of the Braves being involved with Justin Upton. It's obvious why the Braves would want to make a deal like this, but there are also plenty of reasons why they shouldn't make a move like this. That's why unfortunately I don't see it happening.
On one hand Upton is among the brightest young stars in the game and would give the Braves their closest thing to a true cleanup. Plus Upton would help fill some of the void that is being created when Chipper Jones retires at the end of the season.
However trading Martin Prado would create another another hole. Prado is one of the best #2 hitters in the game and has great versatility. Taking him out of the lineup would slow the most productive part of the Braves lineup and send them scrambling to find a third baseman for next season.
If the Diamondbacks manage to move Upton for Prado, Arizona will pat itself on the back for a trade well done. Sure, Jones' retirement necessitates an added veteran bat, but Prado is a huge part of the Atlanta franchise and, if left in place, a potential leader in Jones' absence.
Whether coupled with prospect Julio Teheran or not, Atlanta likely will remain unwilling to trade Prado, even for Upton.
Trade Likelihood: Low
If Justin Upton travels to Detroit in the near future, he will find a familiar face in former Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. According to the Detroit Free Press and ESPN insider Buster Olney, this rumored trade could be perfect for both teams.
Tigers FC Sean Rinehart:
If Justin Upton is brought to Detroit, the lineup immediately becomes one of the best in the AL. The Tigers' bats have been heating up as of late, and bringing in a young, power hitting outfielder may be just what they need to take over the AL Central for good.
It may cost Detroit two of their top prospects in Nick Castellanos and Jacob Turner, but if Mr. Ilitch and the Tigers are really trying for a World Series now, they may have to pay the price. While there is a still a void at second base and another starting pitcher would be beneficial, the acquisition of Upton would pay immediate dividends for Detroit.
Think about it: Tigers prospect third baseman Nick Castellanos will remain No. 2 to MLB's Miguel Cabrera, while in Arizona, Castellanos will only be in competition for the hot corner with Ryan Roberts and Geoff Blum.
Meanwhile, Turner is the token right-handed hurler that Arizona all but requires in a potential trade for it to be worthwhile. Not only that, Turner has been solid in the minor leagues, which Arizona has reason to believe will translate to the sluggish NL West. A 2012 MiLB opposing batting average of .226? Sign him up.
Trade Likelihood: Moderate
Don't look now, but the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates might be adding Justin Upton in the near future.
B/R FC Tim Keeney:
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.
Adding him to the payroll severely limits Pittsburgh's ability to go after any other big names in the future.
The Pirates are certainly after a power-bat/outfielder combo and Upton clearly delivers in that role, while Pirates utility infielder Alen Hanson and southpaw pitcher Rudy Owens are two potential candidates Arizona can develop to suit their needs at the hot corner and on the mound.
Top pitching prospects Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole might also be on the table and could prove extremely fruitful for Arizona, especially if Pittsburgh is greatly interested in acquiring Upton.
With Pittsburgh described as "serious bidders" by Sports Illustrated's Tracking Blog, the stakes are higher than ever and the Pirates, who have a healthy farm of pitchers, must seriously consider who is expendable and who is a must-have.
Trade Likelihood: Moderate
According to AZCentral, Toronto remains a distant candidate, with no formidable deal in place, much less on the international drawing board.
Arizona last played Toronto in 2010, which, for Justin Upton, could mean two things: First, a fresh start and a chance to revitalize and second, that he might want to dial up brother B.J. Upton and ask about AL-style baseball.
Blue Jays FC Stephen Brown:
To acquire a young bat like Upton with his pedigree would get that big middle of the order bat that Anthopoulos has been looking for all season. With Yunel Escobar signed for the foreseeable future, Adeiny [Hechavarria] could definitely be on the move.
The Jays would probably have to give up Deck McGuire and another piece along with Adeiny to get Upton but with the glutton of arms in the system I don’t think it is a tall order for such a highly touted 24 year old who was in the top 5 in MVP voting last year. It is definitely a big time possibility that Upton comes north of the border.
This is the exact type of player that AA loves to acquire: controllable 'til 2015, young and would mesh well with the club. I say that the Jays should very much inquire about Upton’s availability which would definitely make them a frontrunner for the second Wild Card spot.
The Blue Jays would certainly love to snag Upton, though shortstop Hechavarria may not be an extremely attractive acquisition for Arizona; after all, the club recently welcomed back No. 1 shortstop Stephen Drew, and backup Willie Bloomquist remains an extremely vital option. Hechavarria's versatility will drive the likelihood of this trade.
On the other hand, McGuire is a powerful arm the D-Backs would certainly cherish. Pitching and defense win ball games—just ask Ian Kennedy, whose struggles have contributed to losses and triumphs to victories.
Trade Likelihood: Moderate
Justin Upton's best shot at remaining in MLB's West on a new team begins and ends with the Texas Rangers—Arizona would be foolish to trade Upton to an NL West foe.
Rangers FC Lance Reaves:
Mike Olt for Upton makes a lot of sense, where the problem will be is the other player(s) Arizona wants in the deal. Don’t count on the Rangers including Jurickson Profar, he is the crown jewel of their farm system. Upton would provide good insurance if Josh Hamilton were to leave via free agency.
However, taking the remaining four years of Upton’s contract presents an issue because Texas has several key players with expiring contracts in the next few years (Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus).
The Rangers also have some highly touted young players who will be ready to contribute soon like Profar and Leonys Martin. So, at this point I would say a deal for Upton is possible but unlikely.
Similar to Castellanos with Detroit, Olt is exactly the type of extolled hot-corner prospect that Arizona is looking for, while Upton provides an intriguing option for Texas' outfield.
Yet as intriguing as Upton might be for Texas, this deal appears lopsided in Arizona's favor—the basic formula of corner infielder and/or hot bat-plus-pitcher is satisfied while the financial attributes of the deal benefit the D-Backs. Unfortunately, it just does not benefit Texas in that same way.
Trade Likelihood: Low