Over the weekend, reports began to surface that the Diamondbacks were shopping star-crossed Right Fielder Justin Upton. Supposedly, the D-Backs are “pushing” to make a deal according to a rival official who spoke with Buster Olney. Of course, that is just a rumor and no one really knows for sure how hard Arizona is really trying to peddle Upton. The topic is a hot one during All Star Week and will intensify if the D-Backs start the second half slowly.
Look, we know this season has not gone as planned for the organization. Yet for all that has gone wrong, this team is only a game under .500 and a scant four games off the division lead. You can argue we have seen the best of both the Giants and the Dodgers so far this season. Can you say the same about the Diamondbacks? After a horrendous start to last week’s home stand, the team rallied to take the last three games before the break with two of the wins the come-from-behind variety. Upton played tremendously after his criticism of the fans, going 7 for 15 with two doubles and two triples. Does that kind of performance seem to you like a guy that doesn’t care? Do those three wins indicate the D-Backs have rolled over? Trading Upton now would send this unmistakable message: 2012 is toast. Sure, Gerardo Parra would slide into Upton’s position in right but seriously, when both players are at their best, who would you rather have out there? No offense to Parra but he would be replacing a guy who finished fourth in the MVP race last season and is showing signs of going on a tear. You can’t expect to trade your best player in the middle of a pennant race and win. It just doesn’t happen. If management wants to trade Upton, they should wait until after the season. They owe it to the fans and to the team to let the remainder of 2012 play out as there is so much baseball left to be played
Here is what everyone loses sight of, from fans, to media, to anyone who loves knee-jerk reactions. Justin Upton is 24 (soon to be 25) years old. That was and still is an inordinate amount of pressure to put on a young man. Were his comments last week ill-advised? Of course they were. Would he like to have them back? You bet. He spoke up after losing yet another game his team shouldn’t have lost and he was being booed vociferously by his home fans. It takes a lot for someone to hold their tongue after receiving such borderline hatred. The next time something like that happens, I am sure he will choose his words more wisely. This is part of growing up, particularly in learning to live in a fishbowl that comes with being a star Major League Baseball player. The fans expected so much this season from Upton and the team and they have to have faith the D-Backs can right the ship. Booing your best player, although understandable and at times fair, is not the answer. With such a small separation within the National League West and 76 games left in the season, now is the time to rally around the good guys.
If the club truly believes Justin Upton does not fit in Arizona beyond 2015, then they should explore all trade options that can fill needs at Third Base, Shortstop and the bullpen. I think it would be a mistake to trade Upton period as in most of these trades, the team getting the superstar fares much better than the team trading the superstar. Plus, the team has a nice window of opportunity thanks to their surplus of young starting pitching. Personally, I would love a star the caliber of Justin Upton to remain with one club his entire career.
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