Let the Justin Upton trade speculation recommence.
There are only two ways for the rumor mill to stop spinning around Upton: for him to be traded or retire—and Upton isn't retiring anytime soon.
Shortly after the Diamondbacks acquired SS Didi Gregorius in a three-team deal with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal asked Arizona GM Kevin Towers what it all meant for Upton (via Twitter):
Towers: "Highly unlikely" #DBacks trade Upton. Needs filled, better team with him. "At this point, I don't think that is going to happen."— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2012
We've heard this before—and it hasn't done anything to quash the trade chatter around Upton.
Gregorious could be the shortstop of the future in Arizona—or he could be a career utility player. Acquiring a more established shortstop is certainly something that Towers and the powers that be in Arizona would have to consider.
MLB.com's Steve Gilbert takes things a step further, opining that another Diamondbacks outfielder would be dealt before Upton (via Twitter):
Would think at this point the #Dbacks would be more likely to move Kubel rather than Upton. Never say never though.— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) December 14, 2012
While that makes sense in theory, nobody would argue that Kubel, 30, has more trade value than Upton, 25.
As Rosenthal writes in his latest column, I'm not the only one who has doubts as to whether the Diamondbacks really won't trade Upton at this point (h/t Fox Sports):
Some executives still believe that the Diamondbacks will trade Upton,even though general manager Kevin Towers has said such a move is “highly unlikely.”
One exec asks: What if Upton, 25, has a mediocre season? It would be the third time in four years that he failed to meet expectations. And at that point, his value will be diminished.
Upton will earn $9.75 million this season, but his salary will be more than $14 million in each of the final two years of his deal. Meanwhile, the industry perception is that the D-Backs are down on him, though no one is quite sure why.
In other words: The D-Backs still might be motivated to trade Upton now.
There isn't a team in baseball that wouldn't be interested in adding a player with as much upside as Upton has to its roster, and there isn't a team in baseball who has pined for Upton more than the Texas Rangers.
After losing the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, Rosenthal wrote that the Rangers still wanted to acquire Upton (via Twitter):
Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 9, 2012
After losing out on the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes as well, landing Upton becomes even more of a necessity for the Rangers than before.
Since the start of the Hot Stove League, the Diamondbacks have insisted that Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus be a part of any deal involving Upton, something Rosenthal reminded us of earlier this month.
Will Justin Upton be traded this winter?
The reality of the situation in Texas is that, as it stands right now, the Rangers have three middle infielders that deserve to start—Andrus, second baseman Ian Kinsler and SS Jurickson Profar—and only two spots in which to play them.
Moving Kinsler to first base has been discussed and remains a possibility, but Kinsler is one of the best second basemen in baseball and moving him may not be the brightest idea.
While it's understandable that the Rangers would like to keep Andrus, you have to trade value to get value.
An Upton for Andrus trade made sense for both clubs before, and it makes sense for both clubs now.