In an offseason that has seen the addition of former Oakland A's shortstop Cliff Pennington, A's starter Brandon McCarthy, Rockies pitcher Matt Reynolds and Marlins pitcher Heath Bell, the Diamondbacks' biggest story has revolved around its outfield.
Sure, the D-Backs did part ways with Chris Young in exchange for Pennington and Yordy Cabrera, whom Arizona used to acquire Bell, but the club's biggest question mark surrounds the status of corner outfielder Justin Upton.
At this point in the game, however, it might be too late for Arizona not to trade Upton.
When the Diamondbacks attempted to trade Upton to the Seattle Mariners earlier this January, Upton reportedly blocked the deal, citing a partial no-trade clause in which Upton reserves veto power over four destination teams. The Mariners were reportedly one of them.
Also reportedly on the list are the Chicago Cubs, another team Arizona has approached as a potential Upton trade partner (via Bob Nightengale of USA Today). According to ESPN, Arizona is requesting two-time All-Star Starlin Castro in return for two-time All-Star Upton, a move the Cubs appear reluctant to make.
Upton may remain an attractive candidate to clubs seeking an outfield presence, though at this point in the offseason, given all the other transactions already completed, it appears odd Arizona has not contemplated the no-trade issue.
Unfortunately, Upton allegedly "repeatedly told" Arizona he would reject a deal with Seattle; regardless, it appears GM Kevin Towers did not heed Upton's words until it came time for a formal veto.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, as time drags forward, the Texas Rangers and "other teams may prefer to hold back prospects" once considered trade fodder for an Upton deal. In other words, the longer Arizona waits to talk turkey, the less interested other teams may be in such a trade.
From the D-Backs' perspective, transactions from October 2012 through the new year may have effectively diminished the need to trade for certain positions—for instance, the nine-player deal with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds that brought shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona has effectively eliminated the club's pressing need for a young shortstop (via Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com).
This has eased certain pressures and needs for timely transactions—Arizona now has the privilege of patience.
Meanwhile, other teams may not have such a luxury. Texas and other clubs simply cannot wait around for an Upton deal to slowly wind its way through the wire; like Arizona several months ago, their needs are pressing and the waiting game is not a feasible option.
Time remains a crucial factor.
Justin Upton's used to be the big name around baseball, but such star power has lately decreased.
Instead of waiting for Upton, Olney reports that several previously interested teams—including the Mariners—may want to take a chance on the 23-year-old Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, whose skills will soon be on display for Team USA as part of the 2013 World Baseball Classic (via ESPN).
Olney also mentions Rays pitcher David Price as a variable in the Upton trade market, an argument that should prod Arizona into action before a Floridian franchise inadvertently ends up dictating the terms of Upton's future.
In the grand scheme of professional baseball trading, waiting too long to trade a valuable prospect can reduce the value of a deal.
The logic is simple: the longer one team waits to trade one player, the greater chance its eventual trade partner will have already engaged in other trades across baseball, effectively taking a greater number of players off the table as prospects are dealt and newcomers are deemed off-limits.
Young Atlanta pitching includes Luis Avilan, J.R. Graham and Julio Teheran. Had the D'Backs dealt Upton prior to their A's and Indians-Reds deals, Braves shortstop Nick Ahmed could have become a solid pick-up at shortstop.
With the late 2012 deals in place—namely the acquisitions of Cliff Pennington and Didi Gregorius to provide support to veteran Willie Bloomquist—Arizona has already bulked up its shortstop position to a point where another player in that role may appear unnecessary.
With a lesser need for a prospect like Ahmed, Arizona has become less flexible in its ability to bargain—and that street runs both ways. Atlanta already acquired a bare minimum outfield this offseason in center fielders B.J. Upton and Jordan Shafer as backup, while Jason Heyward is expected to continue manning the line in right with Martin Prado in left.
Simply put, the longer Arizona waits to pull the trigger, the less likely a Justin Upton trade will occur and at this point in the proceedings, the Snakes have already waited a significantly lengthy amount of time.