6 MLB Teams Most Likely to Try to Pull off Justin Upton Winter Blockbuster
For much of the early summer, Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton was a hot topic of discussion, and it wasn't for his performance on the field.
Notice that he only covered the season. This offseason could be an entirely different story.
In his Monday blog for ESPN, Buster Olney again brought up Upton, citing rival executives as saying that Upton will likely be offered up for trade this winter.
Upton's production is way down this year, hitting just 13 HR and 56 RBI after clubbing 31 HR with 88 RBI in 2011. His slash line of .272/.349/.407 is significantly lower than last year's .289/.369/.529 as well.
Back in early July, Olney opined about whether or not health might have been a factor in the D-Backs' apparent willingness to discuss a deal involving Upton. Upton has had issues with his left shoulder dating all the way back to 2006.
Still, at just 25 years of age, Upton is a major talent who will draw interest from several teams this offseason.
Here are six teams who could try to put together a package to deal for Upton.
Boston Red Sox
Now that the Boston Red Sox have rid themselves of $262.5 million in payroll, including $60 million for next season, GM Ben Cherington will have some wiggle room to re-shape his ballclub.
The Red Sox have been interested in Upton dating back to November 2010, and it's entirely possible that interest hasn't waned.
If the Red Sox re-sign Cody Ross, an outfield consisting of Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury and Upton could be very enticing indeed, especially with two right-handed bats attacking the Green Monster.
Note: Upton has a limited no-trade clause with four teams on his list. The Red Sox are one of those four teams.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees cannot be counted out of the Justin Upton sweepstakes this offseason.
With the expiring contract of current right fielder Nick Swisher and the likelihood that agent Scott Boras will command big dollars for his services, the Yankees could be wishing Swisher good luck in his travels.
The Yankees did inquire about Upton in July, but according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the prize tag was unpalatable for the Yankees at the time.
Upton is owed $38.5 million through the 2015 season, certainly not out of the realm of possibility for a team like the Yankees.
Note: Upton has a limited no-trade clause with four teams on his list. The Yankees are one of those four teams.
With the uncertainty surrounding the future of Josh Hamilton in Texas, the Rangers could well be interested in Justin Upton this winter.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will be looking for a significant package in return, and the Rangers have the pieces in their farm system to make a return package very attractive.
Upton could conceivably move to left field with Nelson Cruz in right, and the Rangers would be attracted by Upton's cost certainty for the next few seasons.
The Atlanta Braves could be one of the more intriguing teams on this list in terms of possible landing spots for Justin Upton.
With Chipper Jones coming off the books, the Braves only have $15.2 million in committed payroll for the 2013 season. They still have decisions to make regarding the 2013 options for Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, but even if they pick up all three, it's still only $43 million on the books.
Current left fielder Martin Prado could slide to third base next season, putting Upton in left with 22-year-old Jason Heyward in right.
Even if Michael Bourn doesn't return to Atlanta, that's a pretty solid corps of outfielders to build on for the future.
Right field has been somewhat of a black hole for the Detroit Tigers for much of the past two seasons.
Eight players have combined to hit .225 with 12 homers and 60 RBI in right for manager Jim Leyland, and Brennan Boesch has yet to show he can be the answer as the everyday option.
Adding Justin Upton would give the Tigers a potent third option behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and with Victor Martinez coming back healthy next season, a very powerful middle-of-the-order combination indeed.
The Arizona Diamondbacks would likely ask for third base prospect Nick Castellanos in return. Castellanos has a chance to be a terrific hitter, but is currently blocked in Detroit by Cabrera.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are desperately trying to cling to life in their chase for a postseason berth, not to mention their first winning season in 20 years.
In both 2011 and this season, second-half swoons have shown the Pirates that the special talents and bat of Andrew McCutchen isn't nearly enough offensively. They clearly need another impact bat.
The Pirates have shown interest in acquiring Upton in the past, this winter should be no different. The D-Backs will likely want one of the Pirates' prized pitching prospects in return, either Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon.
Whether or not GM Neal Huntington would part with either is the question, but if the Pirates completely fall out of contention, or even worse, finish below .500 once again, the thinking in the front office could be radically altered.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.