Should the Diamondbacks Deal Justin Upton in the Offseason to Re-Tool?
He is a triple threat—he can hit for power, average and he has a cannon for an arm. Add the fact that Upton is only 24 years old, and that makes him the ideal building block for any franchise.
Despite all his tools, 2012 has been unkind to Upton and he is considered to be for sale. While he was not traded by the deadline, there is speculation the Diamondbacks will look to move him in the offseason, though Derrick Hall has indicated otherwise.
While my belief is that the whole situation was blown out of proportion due to the media and a little too much openness by General Manager Kevin Towers, it raises the following conundrum:
Should Upton be traded in order to gain younger talent, or will the Diamondbacks keep the young star and hope he returns to form in 2013?
Justin Upton 2011 vs. Justin Upton 2012
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In 2011, Justin Upton was an MVP candidate and finished in the top five for votes. He led the Diamondbacks to the NL West division title.
In 2012, Upton is an afterthought and has been moved from third in the lineup to fifth.
Upton is down in every offensive category and only looks to be able to match runs scored and walks from last year. This year, he has 71 runs scored compared to 105 runs scored all of last year, and he has walked 47 times compared to 59 times last year.
What has everyone worried are the main offensive categories.
In Upton's MVP season, he drove in 88 RBI, hammered 31 home runs and batted .289 with a .529 slugging percentage.
This year, Upton has only driven in 45 RBI, hit nine home runs and is batting .275 with a .404 slugging percentage.
While this decline is hardly a reason to trade him, it is curious why his numbers have declined with the added protection of Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill.
Upton's Salary the Root of the Problem?
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A significant factor in the decision to trade Justin Upton will be Upton's contract situation.
According to ESPN, the Arizona Diamondbacks spent a little over $74 million on the roster this year, which is 23rd in all of baseball.
Upton is making a touch under $7 million this year, which is a very small portion of the team's overall salary and is not even in the top three highest paid players on the Diamondbacks.
The problem will be next year. According to USA Today, the extension Upton signed in 2010 has him scheduled to earn $9.75 million in 2013, and then his salary will jump to $14.25 million in 2014.
While $9.75 million is manageable, $14.25 million would put the Diamondbacks in a tough spot financially. Of course, Arizona can still sign him to another extension, but it will be a far cry from the six-year $51 million deal he received in 2010.
The Diamondbacks may feel that this is their best opportunity to receive great value for Upton before his dramatic salary increase.
What Would the Diamondbacks Have to Work with After the Fact?
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A final area to consider, when thinking of trading the guy who is the face of the franchise, is what the team will look like without him.
What will Arizona have to compete with?
Any players received in a trade will be left out, as there are numerous trade possibilities and it is impossible to determine what each will be, but more than likely the deal will include a starting outfielder or an outfielder ready to be called up.
Current position players most likely to be around include the following: Aaron Hill, Jason Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero. Others will stick around, but these are the key guys the Diamondbacks will look toward for offensive production.
Aaron Hill has been the best second baseman in the national league, despite his missing invite to the All-Star game. Hill is batting .297 with 13 home runs, 47 RBI and 53 runs scored. He has been nothing less than exceptional since Arizona traded for him and he will be a key part of next year's team.
Jason Kubel was a questionable signing this offseason—it was believed the outfield was set. No one knew that Kubel would become the power in the lineup and have an MVP-caliber season. Kubel is batting .281 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI.
Kubel will be a Diamondback next season without question, but with only one year left, Arizona will have to decide soon if he is worth extending or if he will be next year's hot trade topic.
No matter what happens to Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt will be a Diamondback for a long time. He is batting .304 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. He has become the key player Diamondbacks have lacked for most of their existence.
Last, but certainly not least, is Miguel Montero. He is one of the best defensive catchers in the league and his .280 average with 13 home runs and 64 RBI shows he is no slouch at the plate, either.
Any team would be lucky to have three of these guys, let alone four, giving Arizona substance if Upton was traded.
And the Decision Is...
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His numbers may be down, his salary may be getting a little too expensive and there may be a solid core group of guys left after the trade, but Justin Upton means too much to this franchise to trade him.
Upton has become the face of the franchise. His swing is so beautiful it should be framed. He can run, hit and throw. If Chuck Norris played baseball, he would want to play like Justin Upton.
Players can rebound from down years, contracts can be re-negotiated and the core will change, but if Arizona trades Justin Upton, it will be the biggest mistake the franchise has ever made.
It can be argued that at 24 years old, Upton has not even reached his potential. If a player can still improve after having a season worthy of the MVP title, then that player can be very special for years to come.
Justin Upton is the present star and the future star of this franchise, but it is up to Arizona to realize it.