With the New Year almost upon us, the Seattle Mariners have yet to truly make the splash that most of the baseball world expected them to this offseason. General manager Jack Zduriencik has been turning over every stone in an effort to find an answer for the lack of offensive production that has plagued the Mariners for years.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported recently that—although most of the big-name free agents have signed—Zduriencik is still exploring all options:
#Mariners' Jack Z says team "wide open" to making other moves. Perfect world: Would like to get leadoff man, middle-of-the-order bat.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 27, 2012
Now the Mariners certainly have the money to sign one of those bats. In fact, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus believes that signing (ESPN Insider Only) free-agent Michael Bourn would benefit Seattle more than anyone else.
But even after Bourn, Seattle still needs another middle-of-the-order bat to pair with recently acquired Kendrys Morales. But where is Seattle going to find this bat?
It's not like there are any GMs out there who are open to getting rid of their middle-of-the-order bats!
Oh wait, there is.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports believes that with the recent signing of Cody Ross, general manager Kevin Towers of the Arizona Diamondbacks will again entertain the thought of trading away outfielder Justin Upton.
Acquiring Upton would not be easy. Many fans will cringe at the talent the Mariners would have to give up to acquire the power-hitting outfielder.
A trade of this magnitude would most likely require Seattle to relinquish two of the big three pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton), either Nick Franklin or Brad Miller and two more lower-level talents with high ceilings.
Many fans will think back to the five-for-one trade Seattle made back in 2008 for Erik Bedard and use that as a reason why the M's shouldn't make this deal. But giving up five prospects for one star in Justin Upton would be the only comparison that these two deals would have.
Plain and simple, Bedard is not Justin Upton.
Other fans will point out that Upton hasn't performed up to the expectations since he signed a six-year $51.26 million extension with Arizona in 2010. But would any Mariner fan complain about a two-time All-Star outfielder with career averages of .278/.357/.475, 25 doubles, 18 homers and 60 RBI?
When it comes down to it, Upton is a franchise-altering player. Sure, Seattle may have to send away two potential front-of-the-rotation starters and a potential All-Star middle infielder.
Does Trading for Justin Upton Make the Mariners a Contender in the AL West?
But both of those labels come with a big word in front of them: potential. Upton is a two-time All-Star and one of the best young players in the game. Adding a bat like Upton's to the Mariners would drastically improve what has been one of MLB's most stagnant lineups over the last few seasons.
It would offer manager Eric Wedge the flexibility to move young hitters like Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero into better spots in the order where they would be more likely to thrive.
As good as Seager was last year, imagine how much better he would be with a player like Upton in the lineup. It would take pressure of Montero and Ackley who struggled mightily at times last season to carry the load on offense.
And it's not like Upton is some slouch in the outfield either. According to fangraphs.com, from 2009-2011, Upton had an average ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 7.3 while playing right field in Arizona. In that same time frame, former Mariner Ichiro Suzuki had an average UZR of 5.5.
Now Upton is not Ichiro defensively by any means, but it does show that Upton is more than capable of holding his own in the outfield.
The addition of Upton would make the Mariners a threat not only for a wild card but the American League West title as well. Remember, Seattle scored the fewest runs in the American League last season and still won 75 games. Imagine what adding a bat like Upton's to go along with that of Morales' would do for that win total.
This is a trade the Mariners have to make. Without drastic improvement from the offense in 2013, Zduriencik may not be around to see whether his highly touted prospects were worth holding onto.
A player like Upton doesn't come around very often. This would be just what it would take to turn the Mariners into winners and Seattle into a baseball town again.
Upton would be the answer to many of the Mariners problems. Acquiring him would not only improve the team now, but it would show all free agents that ownership is serious about building a winner in the Pacific Northwest.
You want to live in a perfect world, Jack? Trade for Upton.
Then we'll see how long it takes for a certain "leadoff man" to show up.