Texas Rangers Are Smart to Walk Away from the Justin Upton Trade Ransom

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Texas Rangers Are Smart to Walk Away from the Justin Upton Trade Ransom
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Justin Upton refused a trade to the Seattle Mariners.

What would it take to get Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks? The Seattle Mariners provided us with the answer.

As reported by CBS Sports' Scott Miller, the Mariners and D-Backs had a deal in place that would have sent top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, minor league shortstop Nick Franklin and major league relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor to Arizona in exchange for Upton.

It would've been a great haul for D-Backs general manager Kevin Towers.

But one thing scotched the deal: Upton invoked his no-trade clause—which includes the Mariners among four teams—and declined to go to Seattle. 

However, the Mariners' offer establishes a template for other MLB teams interested in trading for Upton to look at and apply to their own team. Upton will cost any potential suitors a top pitching prospect, a top position player prospect (preferably a shortstop) and two major league relievers.

That's a steep price. Probably too steep a price.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal quoted a source that said Upton turning down the trade likely prevented Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik from losing his job, confirming the sentiment that this would have been a significant overpay for Upton. 

But maybe Zduriencik felt overpaying would have compelled the D-Backs to convince Upton to waive his no-trade clause.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Jack Zduriencik made an offer the D-Backs couldn't refuse.

It's also entirely possible that the Mariners are so desperate for a power-hitting outfielder after losing out on Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher that they felt the need to get Upton by any means necessary.

Besides, Seattle has the pitching prospects to spare with Danny Hultzen and James Paxton also in the organization. 

After seeing what it took to persuade Towers into finally agreeing to trade Upton, might any other MLB general managers step up with a similar package and try to acquire the 25-year-old outfielder?

Those GMs would presumably be from a team not listed in Upton's no-trade clause. In addition to the Mariners, Miller reported the Toronto Blue Jays were also among the teams Upton won't go to.

One team that will pass on pursuing Upton for that price is the Texas Rangers, according to the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant. The Rangers and general manager Jon Daniels have been interested in Upton throughout the offseason. But now that the Mariners are out, Texas shouldn't be expected to jump in.

Grant added that the Rangers made a final offer for Upton before the Mariners' trade package was rejected and are ready to move on with their offseason plans. 

Though Upton would be a strong addition to the Rangers outfield after losing Josh Hamilton via free agency to the Los Angeles Angels, giving up a collection of players equivalent to the one offered by the Mariners would be foolish.

To match Seattle's trade package, Daniels would likely have to include either of his shortstops, Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. He's shown no willingness to do this during the offseason. Otherwise, one of those players probably would've been traded already.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Texas GM Jon Daniels will only go so far for Justin Upton.

Mike Olt could also have been included, either as a substitute for one of the shortstops or a pitching prospect. Daniels is likely open to putting him in a deal.

Pitcher Martin Perez would surely be a player Arizona wanted in exchange for Upton. And if the Rangers had to include two major league relievers, Robbie Ross and perhaps Michael Kirkman would make up the rest of the trade load. 

No wonder Daniels walked away from the negotiating table.

Even if Upton would help the Rangers in the short term—and would be under club control for three more years for the affordable price of $38.5 million—giving up those players for him would have set the team back for years to come.

Perhaps the tendency is to overvalue prospects these days, but the Rangers likely would have had to trade proven major leaguers to get Upton. 

Texas doesn't need to overpay to get a hitter like Upton. The Rangers already have a playoff contender and three sluggers in Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski. Perhaps Ian Kinsler should be included on that list as well. 

After signing Pierzynski and Lance Berkman, Texas might have enough left-handed power to replace Hamilton's production in the lineup.

Leonys Martin could also help with that left-handed production if he's ready to contribute on a regular basis. He'll platoon with Craig Gentry in center field. David Murphy in left and Nelson Cruz in right fill out a respectable outfield trio. 

Where could Upton end up instead? If the Mariners are out and the Rangers are no longer interested, that probably leaves the Atlanta Braves as the only team that has a need for Upton and could put together a suitable trade package together.

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Upton wants to play in Atlanta with brother B.J.

A source told Miller that Atlanta is Upton's preferred destination anyway. He'd reportedly love to play with his brother B.J., who just signed a five-year contract with the Braves. 

Would Atlanta GM Frank Wren be willing to give up pitchers Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado? Trade talk with the D-Backs would probably start there. According to reports, Towers covets shortstop Andrelton Simmons, but the Braves won't give him up. 

Atlanta has plenty of bullpen talent to include in such a deal too. Perhaps Cristhian Martinez and Luis Avilan could go to Arizona in an Upton deal. 

Of course, that would be a heavy price to pay. But the Braves would have another right-handed power bat to mesh with lefties Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. That would allow B.J. Upton to likely bat toward the top of the order as well, where his speed could help produce some runs before the big bats come to the plate. 

At this point, it looks like Upton is more likely to stay in Arizona. Though Towers seemingly wants to trade him, given how often he puts the outfielder on the trade block, he's made it clear that it would take an exceptional offer to get him.

The Mariners gave the D-Backs an offer they couldn't refuse. Unfortunately for Arizona, Upton refused the trade himself. 

A better offer might not be available, nor might it be forthcoming.

 

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