Justin Upton Trade Scenarios: 5 Prospect Deals That Could Bring Back Huge Return

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterNovember 14, 2012

Justin Upton Trade Scenarios: 5 Prospect Deals That Could Bring Back Huge Return

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    As you probably already know, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers will listen to offers on just about any player. This offseason, Justin Upton has been the player every team is calling about, as the 25-year-old is rumored to be on the trading block (h/t Fox Sports) for the third time since 2010. However, for the first time it appears that there’s actually substance to those rumors.

    On Monday morning we learned that the Texas Rangers tried to trade third baseman Mike Olt to the Braves in exchange for shortstop Andrelton Simmons. In turn, the Rangers would have then used Simmons to headline a deal for Upton. However, the Braves were unwilling to move (via Danny Knobler of CBS Sports) with Simmons, who impressed the organization in 49 games during the regular season.

    The Diamondbacks have made it clear that they’re interested in acquiring a young shortstop or third baseman—preferably one who’s at least close to big league ready—as well as a front-line starting pitcher.

    Signed to a team-friendly six-year, $50 million contract in 2009, Upton is owed $38.5 million through the 2015 season. If he returns to his 2011 form, then the deal will inevitably be viewed as a success. However, if there’s a perceived chance that Upton continues to regress as he did during the 2012 season, then the Diamondbacks would benefit from cashing in before his stock slides even farther.

    While any deal for Upton will likely include at least one major leaguer—ideally a shortstop—Towers also will presumably listen to any prospect-based offer as well.

    So, here’s a look at numerous teams who may be able to put together a flattering assemblage of prospects capable of landing Justin Upton.

Colorado Rockies

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    3B Nolan Arenado, 21: The 6’1” third baseman enjoyed a monstrous offensive season for High-A Modesto (California League) in 2011; didn’t come close to matching production in 2012; flat bat-path results in loud contact from line-to-line; tons of present gap power, but 2012 campaign has made it more difficult to project future power; has vastly improved as defensive third baseman; has clean actions and range for position, not to mention an above-average arm.

    RHP Peter Tago, 20: The 6’2”, 170-pound right-hander has failed to progress since the Rockies made him a supplemental-first-rounder in 2010; is seemingly incapable of repeating mechanics at times; arsenal is highlighted by low-90s fastball, as well as a mediocre curveball and changeup; possesses easy, fluid arm action that is often off-sync with pace of delivery.

Boston Red Sox

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    RHP Matt Barnes, 22: Coming off an impressive professional debut where he pitched most of the season at High-A; could potentially be ready for a big league trial in late 2013; the 6’4” right-hander has durable frame and is capable of still scraping 94-96 mph late into outings; regained a feel for his curveball and threw it with tighter rotation this season; changeup isn’t great but at least qualifies as a show-me offering.


    3B Garin Cecchini, 21: Under-the-radar prospect who has overcome multiple injuries and a slow start to professional career; I think he could have a borderline plus-hit tool in the big leagues; the 6’2”, 200-pound third baseman is a left-handed hitter with above-average speed; highly impressive and intelligent basestealer; athleticism, instincts and plus arm project favorably at hot corner; has present gap power but should run into more balls in coming years.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    SS Hak-Ju Lee, 22: Signed out of South Korea in 2008, the 6’2”, 170-pounder has emerged as a plus defensive shortstop with excellent range, smooth actions and a strong arm; from that standpoint, he’s big league-ready; has the potential for an above-average hit tool, but plate discipline has deteriorated since reaching Double-A for the first time in late-2011.


    RHP Chris Archer, 24: The 6’3” right-hander made a strong impression in nearly 30 big league innings this past season; finally made some necessary adjustments and began to harness his command; very impressive arsenal comprised of mid-90s fastball with late run, a plus-slider with sharp, downer break and a steadily improving changeup; will be odd-man-out or relegated to bullpen role in 2013 unless Rays deal starting pitching.

Detroit Tigers

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    OF/3B Nick Castellanos, 20: The 6’4”, 210-pounder showcases impressive bat control as well as the ability to hammer mistakes; inside-out swing has limited his power thus far, but should develop has he adds physical strength; plate discipline is still an issue, as he’s prone to chasing breaking balls off the plate; moved from third base to the outfield during second half of season; defense has been tolerable at both positions, though nothing spectacular; highly projectable bat will dictate his future position.

Texas Rangers

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    3B Mike Olt, 24: Arguably top third base prospect in the minor leagues thanks to plus power to all fields; chance to hit for better-than-expected average as he develops; has improved versatility and could see time at both first base and either corner outfield spot; moves well at the hot corner given his 6’2”, 210-pound frame, with good hands and a strong arm.


    RHP Luke Jackson, 21: The 6’2” right-hander’s mechanics and torque-based delivery has striking similarities to Brewers’ Tyler Thornburg; throws everything on downhill plane with tilt; above-average fastball works best in low-90s but can reach back for 95 mph; curveball has impressive shape and downer action and is a plus offering when he’s around the zone; changeup lags well behind other two pitches; if he can refine his command and lower his walk-rate, Jackson could start moving quickly.