MLB Teams That Can Save a Sinking Offseason with Justin Upton Blockbuster
The Arizona Diamondbacks and general manager Kevin Towers simply cannot help themselves.
Just when it seems as if the D-Backs had finally decided to move ahead with their offseason and include outfielder Justin Upton in their plans for 2013, rumors of Arizona looking to trade Upton are again circulating.
On Tuesday (Jan. 22), ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the D-Backs were still trying to trade Upton or Jason Kubel in the three weeks before MLB teams report to spring training. Approximately 24 hours later, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that Arizona is considering an offer from the Atlanta Braves. That would unite Justin with brother B.J. in the Atlanta outfield.
However, the Braves have already had a strong offseason, signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75 million contract. The team also strengthened its bullpen by acquiring Jordan Walden from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for starting pitcher Tommy Hanson.
Other teams could arguably use Justin Upton more than the Braves and salvage their lackluster offseasons by trading for the 25-year-old budding star with MVP-caliber talent.
If trade discussions with Atlanta fell through in the days to come, which MLB clubs could benefit most by making a deal for the D-Backs' right fielder?
Yes, we know—this is an old story at this point.
The Texas Rangers have seemingly had every opportunity to trade for Justin Upton this season.
In early December, during baseball's winter meetings, it looked like the Rangers were going to get him and wish Josh Hamilton the best as he looked for another team.
(Hamilton ended up leaving anyway, bolting to the Los Angeles Angels.)
But general manager Jon Daniels could never arrange the right deal that appealed to his counterpart in Arizona, Kevin Towers. Trying to get teams like the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians involved in a three-way trade never quite came together.
Finally, Daniels apparently threw his hands up and conceded that he couldn't make an offer that would get Upton. Not without including either of his shortstops, Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, that is.
The Rangers have salvaged a decent offseason, signing A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman to replace some of Hamilton's left-handed power.
But their outfield is lacking a star at the moment. Upton would still be the one guy who could change that and put the Rangers in a better position to compete with the Angels in the AL West.
New York Mets
The New York Mets are currently set to go into spring training with a projected outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter.
Order your season tickets now, Mets fans!
General manager Sandy Alderson told ESPN New York's Adam Rubin that the team could make "significant activity" in next year's free-agent market. But why wait until next year?
Would the Mets find a better outfielder in the 2014 crop of free agents than Justin Upton—and at the price of $13 million per season?
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the Mets in making such a deal is that they want to build around a young pitching staff led by Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. As the team's minor league system isn't deep in position player prospects, at least one—if not more—of those pitchers would have to go to Arizona in a trade for Upton.
That might be too high of a cost for Alderson. Waiting to make a play for a free agent would only take money, rather than compromising the Mets' future.
Chicago White Sox
When he was general manager of the Chicago White Sox, Kenny Williams often made the bold, sometimes curious move to improve his team.
Outfielder Alex Rios and starting pitcher Jake Peavy are on the White Sox's roster because of Williams' penchant to make a risky trade. Signing Adam Dunn was an audacious transaction as well.
Yet it's been a relatively quiet offseason on Chicago's South Side under new GM Rick Hahn. Other than re-signing Peavy to bolster the top of the starting rotation, the only other notable move the team has made was to sign Jeff Keppinger as their starting third baseman.
Yet the White Sox might not have the sorts of players the Arizona Diamondbacks are seeking in return for Upton's services. Chicago's top two prospects—Courtney Hawkins and Trayce Thompson—are outfielders according to Baseball America, and the D-Backs are loaded with outfield talent.
Carlos Sanchez is a shortstop prospect that could intrigue Arizona, but the team already has Didi Gregorius to develop at that position. Would the White Sox consider including Alexei Ramirez in a package for Justin Upton?
New York Yankees
When George Steinbrenner was running the show in the Bronx, the New York Yankees might have made a trade for Justin Upton already.
With a crying need for a star player and power-hitting corner outfielder, The Boss would have demanded that his front office pursue Upton. General manager Brian Cashman wouldn't be allowed to get any sleep until Upton was in pinstripes.
For a 25-year-old hitter that's posted two MVP-caliber seasons among his six years in the major leagues, Steinbrenner might have flown to Arizona to make the trade happen himself.
Upton would also bring some youth to a roster that's looking increasingly old and creaky going into the 2013 season. The Yankees need some younger talent in their lineup, as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez continue to age and deteriorate.
As with the White Sox, however, the Yankees' top prospects are outfielders, which may not interest D-Backs GM Kevin Towers. He may be willing to stockpile talent and see who eventually wins out, or use those players as trade chips.
But Towers seems intent on filling some holes on the major league roster by trading Upton, and the Yankees certainly don't have the shortstop that would make Towers pull the trigger on a deal.
I know what you're going to say: The Pittsburgh Pirates won't make a trade like this.
But the Pirates could do a deal like this, and it's up to general manager Neal Huntington to make it happen.
Pittsburgh has two of the top pitching prospects in baseball with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Should either of those players be untouchable? Maybe, since the Pirates could use some young talent in their starting rotation.
Yet if Huntington were willing to part with one of those pitchers, would a trade for Upton be worth the sacrifice? Arizona would surely want more, however. Perhaps shortstop prospect Alen Hanson could also be included, though the Pirates probably have just as great a need for him.
But Pittsburgh's minor league system has starting pitching depth and maybe an outfielder that could interest Arizona.
The Pirates need to do something bold after competing for the NL Central lead during the past two seasons, only to collapse in the second half.
Andrew McCutchen needs some more help in the lineup, though Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez provided strong support last season. Upton would be the second star hitter that could push Pittsburgh up the division standings and into legitimate playoff contention.
Well, the Seattle Mariners certainly tried their best to get Justin Upton. You have to pat general manager Jack Zduriencik on the back for that.
Upton turning down a proposed deal to the Mariners by invoking his limited no-trade clause (in which Seattle was one of four teams listed) may have saved Zduriencik from himself. The offer he made to Arizona may have bankrupted the Mariners' future.
According to CBS Sports' Scott Miller, Seattle was willing to trade top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker and minor league shortstop Nick Franklin, along with major league relievers Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor for Upton.
That would have been an outstanding haul for the D-Backs.
Though the deal didn't go through, it established a template for other teams to follow. The Rangers walked away from trade discussions, rather than meet that price. It appears virtually every other Upton suitor has pushed away from the table too.
The Mariners have been criticized for hoarding designated-hitter types of players—such as Raul Ibanez, Kendry Morales and Michael Morse—who could provide some offense but are limited defensively and could hurt Seattle in the field.
Zduriencik would surely make the deal again if Upton changes his mind. Instead, he may forever wonder what could have been.
Like the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago Cubs can try all they want to make a deal for Justin Upton but it ultimately won't matter.
The Cubs are one of the four teams listed in Upton's limited no-trade clause (the Yankees have since been replaced by the Mariners), which means he can veto any prospective deal, as he did when the Arizona Diamondbacks thought they had a trade worked out with the Mariners.
According to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine, the D-Backs were asking for shortstop Starlin Castro in any trade proposal for Upton. Cubs team president Theo Epstein thought that was too high a price to pay and cut off trade discussions.
But by talking about a trade for Upton in the first place, the Cubs are indicating that they'd like to add an impact hitter—preferably in the outfield—to join Castro, Alfonso Soriano and Anthony Rizzo in the team's lineup.
If Upton doesn't end up getting traded before the season—though current reports are to the contrary—perhaps this is something that could be revisited around the July 31 trade deadline.
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