With the Winter Meetings coming to a close this week, some are surprised that Justin Upton is still a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The rumor mill was afloat this entire week with the names of possible destinations for the 25 year-old, two-time All-Star outfielder. Texas and Cleveland were the two teams who seemed to be linked the most with the D’Backs as the main components of a trade seemed to fit best with those two franchises (Upton, pitching, shortstop).
Arizona GM Kevin Towers has been steadfast in his refusal to discuss trade particulars, but has acknowledged that the Diamondbacks are listening to other teams in talks regarding Upton. This has been a non-secret since the last trade deadline. when Upton’s name was floating around in trade rumors.
There are a number of things that Kevin Towers has going for him in any possible trade negotiations regarding Upton.
First, Towers does not have to move Upton. He is locked up through the 2015 season. Upton really has no leverage, even if he wanted to leave. While Upton’s contract will make him difficult to trade down the road, he is a bargain next season. If he has the season’s that many think he will have as he moves into the prime of his career, his contract could make him downright affordable. In 2012, Upton is due $6.75 million, in 2013 that jumps to $9.75 million and for the 2014-15 seasons he will make just over $14 million per season.
While the D’Backs would like an upgrade at shortstop, Upton does provide a proven bat in the middle of the lineup if he stays put. His defense could be better, but it is an effort issue versus a technique issue with Upton. If Manager Kirk Gibson can get Upton’s head screwed on straight, Upton could be an excellent defensive player.
Second, the D’Backs should be in no hurry to trade Upton. Arizona should not be desperate and be raked over the coals in any deal involving the right fielder. I do not think that an Upton-Cabrera swap with the Indians is equal in value and would require more from the Cleveland Indians to obtain the mercurial right fielder. The same can be said for an Upton-Andrus deal with the Texas Rangers. Both have been proposed as potential deals and while both strengthen the Arizona middle-infield, you lose a lot of offense inserting Gerardo Parra in right field every day and a lot of range defensively by inserting Jason Kubel in right field every day.
The bottom line is, the D’Backs should be in the driver seat on any of these negotiations for Upton. If they come across a deal that they feel that they cannot turn down, take it. But, be wary. This is a five-tool outfielder that they would be giving away and it could come back to haunt the franchise. The last thing the franchise wants to be known as is the franchise that gave away a guy that could be a potential future MVP of the league.
If they decide that they cannot find the right deal, the first thing they could do is stop shopping him and repair any harm that has been done to the relationship up to now. That will take some time, but it’s never to late to start to try to fix the ill will that has been created over the past two tumultuous seasons in Arizona.
Either way, the D’Backs do not need to move quickly on this. Patience is a virtue and it seems like after the Winter Meetings, that veteran GM Kevin Towers has quite a bit of that virtue stored away for this type of situation.
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