The rumors surrounding two of the best young sluggers in baseball just won't go away.
Both Justin Upton and disgruntled Marlins' right fielder Giancarlo Stanton have had their names thrown around in recent trade rumors, and interestingly enough, the Seattle Mariners are one team that appears in both of those discussions.
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted earlier this week that the Mariners had contacted the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton, who is considered one of the top young players in MLB:
Mariners have contacted Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton, but one source I talked with doubts a trade will occur.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 1, 2013
Meanwhile, Buster Olney of ESPN tweets that the Arizona Diamondbacks are once again open to moving their star slugger Justin Upton:
Some officials now convinced that it'll be Upton, rather than Kubel, who will be the outfielder that Arizona moves before start of its camp.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 3, 2013
Arizona very much open again to talking about trading Justin Upton w/other teams, and not surprisingly, their specific demands have changed.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 3, 2013
The Diamondbacks have viewed Seattle as a possible landing spot for Upton, but remember, he would have to approve any deal to Mariners.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 3, 2013
So, the question becomes, which one of these guys should the Seattle Mariners target?
We know both would be great additions to the M's, and both are going to cost a good package of prospects.
Yet one deal is surely better for the Mariners and their future.
For instance, which player will cost more to acquire? Which player is better for the Mariners moving forward? Which one of the two will be easier to re-sign when the time comes?
It's these three factors, when added together will help us understand which player GM Jack Zduriencik and his team should pursue (it's also worth noting that both of these players will be hard to acquire, as Justin Upton has a no-trade clause and even Morosi notes that a deal for Stanton isn't likely).
What it will take to acquire either Stanton or Upton could influence which player the Mariners decide to take a run at in a significant way.
For instance, to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, it would probably take three top-tier prospects, including either Taijuan Walker or Mike Zunino (or both) and another mid-level prospect.
This is because the Miami Marlins aren't in any hurry to trade Stanton and would need to be blown away by an offer to pull the trigger.
In a recent article for the Seattle Times, Larry Stone offers his thoughts on what it might take to acquire Stanton. He indicates that it could take a package of Kyle Seager, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, Nick Franklin and Gabriel Guerrero.
That means losing the team's best hitter, two top pitching prospects, their second-best prospect among position players and a mid-level prospect.
Would that be worth it to Seattle?
Contrast that to what it may cost to bring in Justin Upton.
Upton's numbers aren't as impressive as Stanton's, and as Olney mentioned in the aforementioned tweets, Arizona has a surplus of outfielders to trade. This means that they are more willing to deal Upton and would not require as high of a price.
Not to mention, Upton is much closer to hitting free agency, so he doesn't have the draw of being as controllable as Stanton.
This means that Seattle may be able to keep a guy like Kyle Seager and a pitching prospect in Danny Hultzen if they were to deal for Upton.
Two top prospects and a mid-level prospect should be more than enough to acquire a player like Justin Upton.
So when it comes to cost, there is no doubt that Upton is the wiser move.
Best Option for the Future
Which player is better for Seattle's future is a little tougher to figure out than the cost to acquire either player.
For instance, when it comes to statistics and year of control, Stanton takes the cake.
He is two years younger, hits free agency one year later, and has a career OPS .071 points higher than Upton.
His production in terms of home runs has increased in each of his three seasons in the majors and has knocked in at least 85 runs in each of his last two campaigns. But is that added production (Upton has averaged nearly 23 home runs and 78 RBI in his last four seasons) worth the extra cost?
Consider this: The difference in Stanton and Upton could be 10 home runs and 25 RBI in a given year. That seems like a nice upgrade, but now you have to ask how much production you'd lose by giving up Kyle Seager and having someone else play third base.
Then there's the consideration of what production you may lose in the future from the additional prospects you give up.
While it's not a certainty, Upton may actually be the better move for the Mariners' future, despite Stanton having the edge in numbers and years of team control.
Who Will be Easier to Re-sign?
The edge on this one also goes to Justin Upton.
This means that Upton would be set to become a free agent just one season after starter Felix Hernandez, while Stanton would hit the market just two years after King Felix. With Seattle still trying to lock up Hernandez for the foreseeable future, re-signing either of these young sluggers won't be an easy feat.
With the way that the price of pitching has skyrocketed over the past few years (see Greinke, Zack), Felix Hernandez is poised to land a deal of that averages at least $25 million per season (that number could also grow depending on how big contracts to Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw are).
If Seattle does manage to retain his services, it would probably then turn its attention to re-signing whichever one of these two young guns they bring in.
With the way Stanton has been clobbering the ball, he could also approach $25 million per season territory. One has to wonder if the Seattle Mariners would be willing to fork over that much money to Stanton as well.
By comparison, it may only take a number between $15 and $20 million a year to keep Justin Upton in the Pacific Northwest.
Those savings over the term of a four- or five-year contract are nothing to scoff at.
While it may be an enticing prospect, trading for Giancarlo Stanton probably isn't the best option available to the Mariners.
Justin Upton may not be as talented as Stanton, but when it comes to the future of the club, he is the better option.
If he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to Seattle (something he previously said he may not be willing to do), Seattle would be wise to begin negotiations with Arizona.
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