While most teams appear to be set as spring training approaches, there are still a few dominoes that could drop. One of the biggest involves the Arizona Diamondbacks and outfielder Justin Upton.
Despite being just 25 years old and signed to a reasonable contract through 2015, the Diamondbacks continue to explore all possible trade avenues for the former All-Star.
Even though they don't appear to be high on him right now, and his performance in 2012 left a lot to be desired, Upton is still an incredibly valuable asset because of his youth and contract. The Diamondbacks won't just give him away.
With so much swirling around Upton, we wanted to take a look at some of the latest rumors surrounding him.
Cubs squashed Upton-For-Castro Deal
According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, there was at least a discussion between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs in a one-for-one trade that would send Upton to Chicago in exchange for All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro.
According to both sources, the Diamondbacks asked for two-time All-Star Starlin Castro in return for Upton. The Cubs, trying to build a solid base of young players in their somewhat depleted system, balked at trading a 22-year-old shortstop for a 25-year-old right fielder and cut off talks.
As great as Upton can be, the Cubs made the right decision here. As Levine mentions, Castro is three years younger than Upton, is signed through 2020 and plays a more valuable position.
Even though Castro doesn't walk much, he has such great bat speed and plate coverage that he should be a consistent .300 hitter throughout the course of his contract. Add to that the fact he is a solid defensive player, and the Cubs have a potential All-Star for the next seven years.
The Diamondbacks have been adamant about wanting to find a shortstop if they were to deal Upton, so it makes sense on their part to at least ask about a player like Castro. But Upton has to play with more consistency before a deal like that would happen.
And if Upton ever does find that consistency, the Diamondbacks probably won't explore trading him because he would be a potential MVP candidate, like he was in 2011.
Diamondbacks and Rangers ready to look for help elsewhere?
One of the most talked about landing spots for Upton if he were to be dealt was Texas. It would make sense, since the Rangers lost Josh Hamilton in the offseason and would appear to have a need in the outfield.
However, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports, don't expect to see anything happen between the Rangers and Diamondbacks anytime soon.
The Diamondbacks and Rangers have not revived talks on Upton since the D-Backs’ failed trade with the Mariners, with one source saying that the two sides simply have agreed to “move on.”
Which Team Would You Like To See Upton Playing For?
Saying that two teams have agreed to "move on" is always tricky, because there is an obvious fit and if one side gets desperate enough it could pull the trigger on a deal.
The problem is, the Rangers appear steadfast in their resolve to keep both Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. That is certainly their prerogative, and it is hard to argue with them. After all, Andrus is the best defensive shortstop in baseball and has gotten better at the plate the last two years.
Profar is the best prospect in baseball right now, making it to the big leagues last season at age 19. Just because he plays shortstop doesn't mean the Rangers need to make a trade. His youth allows them to keep him in Triple-A without hindering his development.
NL West foes not willing to deal with each other?
Two of the best and most exciting players in the National League West are Upton and San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley. The latter had a breakout season in 2012, hitting .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He also finished fifth in NL MVP voting.
Entering his third season of arbitration, Headley has asked for a substantial raise in 2013, reportedly (via HarballTalk.com) at $10.3 million. The Padres offered $7.075, leaving a gap of over $3 million. That is a huge gap in the arbitration process.
With Headley and the Padres apparently far apart on his worth for 2013, it could lead the team to explore trade options.
Going back to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, don't expect the Diamonbacks and Padres to play nice with each other in a potential Upton-for-Headley deal.
But an official from one of the clubs said Monday, “I can assure you that’s not happening.”
The Padres eventually figure to move Headley, who is two years away from free agency. But they are in the same division as the Diamondbacks, and the histories of the respective front offices — D-backs GM Kevin Towers previously was with the Padres, and Padres GM Josh Byrnes previously was with the D-backs — might be too much to overcome.
The idea that two teams won't deal with each other just because they are in the same division always struck me as ridiculous. Teams have to do what is in their best interest, and if the best deal comes from within the division, you have to take it.
If you build a team that is good enough to win a championship, you don't have to worry about the traded player coming back to bite you.
The Padres have all sorts of problems on offense, so dealing Headley and trying to build around Upton might not be the best move for them anyway.