In what seems to have become an annual rite, the Arizona Diamondbacks are listening to offers for their young, talented, erratically-performing outfielder, Justin Upton.
Major League sources tell Ken Rosenthal that there’s an 80% chance Upton is playing elsewhere in 2013. He has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to four teams. Last year, those four teams were the Cubs, the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Indians (a combination, presumably, of places he genuinely didn’t want to go, and large markets he thought he could play for a financial incentive to waive his no-trade clause, should it come to that). That list, however, has changed, according to Rosenthal, though he doesn’t list the four new teams. It could still include the Cubs, though Nick Piecoro suggests there are four new teams on the list.
Joel Sherman says the Diamondbacks would like to move quickly on this, and the Rays and Rangers are the strongest early suitors. Outside of excitable fans, I haven’t seen the Cubs credibly attached to Upton at this time.
Just 25, Upton has had brilliant seasons (129 OPS+ and 4.8 WAR in 2009, 141 OPS+ and 6.4 WAR in 2011), and lesser seasons (110/3.0 in 2010, 107/2.5 in 2012). He’s signed through 2015, and will make $9.75 million, $14.25 million, and $14.5 million during those three seasons. Obviously he offers a great deal of surplus value, assuming his future seasons will be closer to the 2009/2011 variety.
But that’s the rub with Upton – you don’t know what you’re going to get. And given that he plays right field, rather than a premium defensive position, he’s going to have to generate a ton of value with his bat. The physical gifts are obviously there, but so is the potential for stagnation.
The Cubs would have interest, but so would many, many other teams.
The thing is, if the Rangers are interested – and they’d have no real reason not to be – the Cubs can’t really compete with what the Rangers could offer: namely, Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus. It’s no secret that the D-Backs are looking for a shortstop, preferably a young one who’ll be around for a long time. And, unless the Cubs are planning to deal Starlin Castro, they don’t have really have that piece. Javier Baez is undoubtedly a top shortstop prospect, but he’s a couple years away. Junior Lake might become a decent big league shortstop, but there are serious, serious questions about both his bat and his position. And, even if there weren’t, he’s not the kind of talent that comes at the centerpiece of a trade for Justin Upton.
A kid like Profar is. Or an established player on a friendly contract like Elvis Andrus is. Yes, Starlin Castro falls into that category as well, but does that swap really interest you? It doesn’t me.
In other words, as much as the Cubs might like to pick up a player like Upton, they aren’t a great trade partner, all things considered. If the D-Backs decide to move an outfielder not named Upton, however, here’s hoping the Cubs kick the tires on Gerardo Parra.