MLB Trade Rumors: Hottest Updates on Justin Upton and the Hitting Market

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors: Hottest Updates on Justin Upton and the Hitting Market

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    Now we're down to crunch time.

    With less than 48 hours left before the non-waiver trade deadline hits, general managers will be pushing their cell phones to the limit as they furiously try to add the one piece that they believe will be the difference between a successful 2012 season and a failure, between a playoff berth and an early start to winter vacation.

    While pitching wins championships, hitting gives pitchers the chance to play with a lead. What impact bats are still in play?

    Let's find out.

    *B/R will bring you up-to-the-minute news and analysis from the rumor mill as it breaks, so keep it here for all of your last-minute trade deadline action!*

Justin Upton, RF, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Update 7/31, 7:30 AM:

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Diamondbacks are working on a blockbuster deal to acquire a big-time starting pitcher and he speculates that Justin Upton could be the player that Arizona is building their package around.

    Rosenthal goes on to say that while nobody is sure of the pitchers' identity, the Mariners' Felix Hernandez and the Phillies' Cliff Lee are both possibilities, as both teams are known to have spoken with Arizona about Upton at one point or another.

    7/30:

    It certainly doesn't seem as if Justin Upton is going to find himself playing for anyone but the Arizona Diamondbacks after the trade deadline passes on Tuesday—at least that's the impression their managing partner, Ken Kendrick gave to the Arizona Republic's Scott Bordow:

    "I think we're better off with him on our team, I think this whole  thing has gotten way more attention than it deserves. Among our players, Justin legitimately has the biggest profile. Therefore there's more attention paid to him than maybe someone else this time  of year."

    If you remember, it was Kendrick who expressed his displeasure with Upton to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic in the beginning of June that started all the speculation in the first place—so it's ironic that he's the one to put the final kabosh on talk of the Diamondbacks moving their star 24-year-old right fielder during the season.

    This is now the second time in less than a year that trade chatter has swirled around Upton—clearly, someone or a group of people within the Diamondbacks' organization have doubts about whether he is part of the future.

    Look for GM Kevin Towers to seriously explore moving Upton elsewhere this winter when there isn't a deadline on making a move and they can be patient in their negotiations.

Alfonso Soriano, LF, Chicago Cubs

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    UPDATE July 31, 12:15 AM:

    Alfonso Soriano has control over where he could be traded, and one place that he most certainly won't be heading is San Francisco:

     

    Alfonso Soriano has told Cubs he will not go to Giants in trade

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 31, 2012

     

     

    Teams like the Indians and Rays, among others, could still be fits for Soriano.

     

    July 30:

    How nobody is making a move for Alfonso Soriano makes absolutely no sense to me. According to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, only one team has called Chicago about the 36-year-old outfielder.

    The Cubs are willing to eat all but $2 million of the $36 million remaining on his contract through the 2014 season—and according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, might be willing to eat all of the money owed to him in exchange for a better prospect.

    Soriano has put together a solid season for the Cubs, posting a .274/.324/.507 batting line (almost identical to his career numbers) with 19 home runs and 61 RBI. Over his past seven games, he is hitting .368 with four doubles, a triple and a home run.

    CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reported that the Cubs and Dodgers had some discussions about including Soriano (or Bryan LaHair) in a deal with Ryan Dempster, filling the Dodgers' desire for both another starter and another bat, but it's possible that LA continues to balk at Chicago's asking price.

Stephen Drew, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    UPDATE 6:30 PM ET:

    It looks as if the A's may wind up getting Drew from Arizona:

    D-Backs' talks of Stephen Drew to Oakland continue to have life. Could make sense for both sides.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 30, 2012

     

    Oakland has been relentless in their quest to upgrade the left side of their infield. While he's struggled so far in 2012, Drew is most definitely an upgrade.

     

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says that the Diamondbacks are still debating who will be their shortstop for the rest of the season—Willie Bloomquist or Stephen Drew.

    As GM Kevin Towers told the Arizona Republic's Scott Bordow: "As it stands now it will be tough to get them all at-bats, but we'll see what happens the next two to three days."

    Bloomquist, 34, has been solid both in the field and at the plate for the Diamondbacks, posting a .299/.323/.395 batting line with 20 RBI and seven stolen bases over 77 games.

    Drew, 29, who basically missed the first half of the season while recovering from a broken ankle suffered in 2011, has struggled at the plate, posting a .203/.273/.266 batting line with seven RBI in 23 games.

    A mutual $10 million option (or $1.35 million buyout) exists on Drew's contract while Bloomquist is signed through next season at a very reasonable $1.9 million.

    Chances are that Drew winds up being the odd man out, and a team like the Oakland A's, who is looking to upgrade the shortstop position and has pitching that they can spare, is a likely fit between the two clubs.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

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    While you wouldn't expect a team in the middle of a pennant race to be willing to deal away their starting first baseman, that appears to be the case in San Francisco with the Giants and Brandon Belt:

    Belt, a 24-year-old left-handed hitter, has struggled at the plate for the Giants, posting a .236/.342/.376 with only four home runs and 33 RBI in 87 games played.The Giants are known to be looking to add pieces to their bullpen, so is a Brandon-for-Brandon deal in the works?

    Maybe. 

    Like Belt, League has failed to live up to expectations in 2012, losing the closer's job early and pitching to a 3.63 ERA and 1.50 WHIP while averaging only 5.44 K/9. If Belt winds up in Seattle, you have to wonder if that spells the end of the Justin Smoak experiment, who like Belt has failed to live up to even the most modest of expectations.  

Shin-Soo Choo, RF, Cleveland Indians

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    It was only a few days ago that ESPN's Jayson Stark reported that the Indians would listen to offers on former All-Star Shin-Soo Choo, and since then the rumor mill has buzzed with speculation as to whether he'll be on the move.

    The Pirates continue to try and find a bat to pair with Andrew McCutchen, but there's virtually no chance that they'd include 23-year-old outfield prospect Starling Marte or either of their top pitching prospects, Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon in any deal.Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal say that the Rangers have interest in adding Choo to their lineup, but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman doesn't see a deal happening:

    I'd put the chances of Choo being dealt by Tuesday's deadline at slim-to-none, though with that being said, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Indians move him this winter in order to shore up their starting rotation.

Yunel Escobar, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

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    The Oakland A's have been tied to Blue Jays' shortstop Yunel Escobar for about a week and while rumors have persisted that Escobar's attitude in the clubhouse has been the biggest obstacle to the two teams working out a deal, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle says that the A's have received nothing but glowing reports on Escobar as a teammate.

    Instead, it's the Blue Jays' asking price, which is thought to be steep, that has blocked a trade from going down, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman opines that Escobar could be on the Yankees' short list of potential replacements for Alex Rodriguez at third base.

    Only 29 years old, Escobar is signed through the 2013 season at a reasonable $5 million and two team options at the same salary exist for the 2014 and 2015 seasons as well.

Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres

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    Update 9:20 AM:

    Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan says that the Padres will make a decision on whether Headley will be traded today. Apparently unwilling to continue fueling the rumor mill, I still believe that even if Headley is not moved today, he'll be dealt in the winter.

    8:30 AM:

    The chase for Chase seems to have begun to work itself out over the weekend as only four teams remain as serious suitors for the 28-year-old third baseman since the end of last week:

    #orioles, #athletics and #indians among teams vying for chase headley. interest believed huge in 3B who's 28 yrs old

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 28, 2012

    Source: Headley not out of question for #Yankees. Could play 3B until A-Rod returns, NYY could then go with hottest OF/DH types MORE #Padres

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 28, 2012

    That being the case, all signs point to San Diego not being thrilled with the offer that they have received and tabling talks until after the season:

    To this moment,Padres aren't far down the road in their Headley trade talks. Might table it to the winter,when more teams would be involved.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 29, 2012

    Unless a team gets desperate between today and tomorrow, look for Headley to join the list of impact bats who will be moved over the winter.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins

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    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that there has been an uptick in interest from clubs looking to acquire Twins' first baseman Justin Morneau over the past 24 hours. 

    Heyman names the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Giants as the three clubs with the most interest in the oft-injured 31-year-old, who has enjoyed a resurgence in 2012. Over 78 games played, Morneau has posted a .260/.322/.457 batting line with 13 home runs and 46 RBI.

    He is due roughly $5 million in salary for the remainder of 2012 and is set to earn $14 million in 2013. The Twins are known to be desperately seeking starting pitching, though whether anyone is willing to offer much in the way of quality prospects with that much money remaining on his deal remains to be seen.

Hunter Pence, RF, Philadelphia Phillies

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    UPDATE 1:26 PM

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Giants and Phillies are engaged in negotiations on a potential deal to send Pence to San Francisco.

    No word as of yet what could be heading back to Philly.

    Is Hunter Pence a fit for the Giants? How about the Dodgers? It depends who you ask.

    We know that the Phillies believe Pence is overpaid now, much less in 2013 when he's sure to get a raise from his $10.4 million salary for 2012 in arbitration, even after posting the worst numbers of his career.

    Pence is currently putting up a .271/.336/.447 batting line with 17 home runs and 56 RBI through 101 games played. Entering the season, his career averages were .292/.343/.485 with 23 HR and 82 RBI.

    That being said, chances are that CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury is right in his assertion that the Phillies will wait until the offseason to move him, when they will potentially have more suitors who might be willing to pay what Salisbury calls a high asking price.

Denard Span, CF, Minnesota Twins

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    While their asking price remains high, it seems as if Twins' GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office have at least entered the realm of reason when it comes to what they want in return for Denard Span:

    The Minnesota #Twins are listening to offers for CF Denard Span, but won't move him unless they get a major-league starter back in return.

    — Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 29, 2012

    Span, 28, is under team control through the 2015 season at reasonable salaries.

    One of the best defensive center fielders in the game (who is no slouch with the bat either), you'd have to think that the Twins are looking for a starting pitcher—30 years old or younger—who is under team control for the foreseeable future.

    Whether there is a contender willing to offer such a player remains to be seen, and as with some of the other bats on the market, Span could be a prime candidate to be moved in the winter.

Shane Victorino, CF, Philadelphia Phillies

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    After being swept by the Braves, if the Phillies don't start selling off some of their players in an effort to re-tool for 2013 then GM Ruben Amaro Jr. should have his head examined—the Phillies are done in 2012.

    No player could generate more interest than 31-year-old Shane Victorino, who has been linked to the Dodgers, Giants, Pirates and Reds, among others.

    CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury says that the Phillies are seeking relief pitching that can help them both in 2012 and 2013—a reasonable return for either Victorino or Juan Pierre, who falls into the same category as a Phillies' outfielder about to hit free agency.