January 11, 2013 by Matt Musico
Justin Upton‘s name has been involved in trade rumors all winter, and although the Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners agreed to a deal that would send the outfielder to the Pacific Northwest, Upton used the limited no-trade clause in his contract to block it. This would have been quite the deal had it gone through, as Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik agreed to send four of the organization’s top-10 prospects to the desert in order to acquire the power bat that he (obviously) desperately wants.
The package of prospects included Seattle’s top pitcher and hitter, which seems to be an incredibly steep price for a player that hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 homers and 67 RBI in 2012, but we all know the upside there is when it comes to trading for a player like Upton. He’s only a year removed from his first 30-HR season in 2011, and with a career .276/.357/.475 in six Big League seasons, he’ s primed and ready to enter his prime of his career at the young age of 24.
What makes him more attractive to teams is his current contract; he has three years and $38.5 million left on the deal he signed with the Diamondbacks ($9.75 mil in ’13, $14.25 mil in ’14, $14.5 mil in ’15). If you look at what some free agent outfielders commanded in the market this winter (i.e. Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton), that’s an incredible bargain for what can be an elite, right-handed power bat.
In the wake of this trade being blocked, where do both of these teams go now? Arizona GM Kevin Towers has a surplus of outfielders after signing Cody Ross to a three-year deal right before Christmas, and he can get more in return if he deals Justin rather than Jason Kubel. The other active trade partner has been the Texas Rangers, but they recently made their “final offer” for a trade, one that wasn’t agreed upon by Arizona. Now, Texas has said they’re prepared to move on. The team that could be waiting in the shadows is the Atlanta Braves, who have already signed B.J. to play center. They have the prospects to sway Arizona to pull the trigger, but it will depend on whether or not Frank Wren is willing to deplete his prospect pool to fill the hole in the outfield they want to fill.
What about the Mariners, though? They’ve been searching for a power bat in the outfield all off-season. They made a strong play for Josh Hamilton before the Angels came in and signed him to a monster deal (five-years/$125 million), and now that they were unsuccessful in their pursuit of Upton, what’s next? Since the Nationals have signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal this week, Michael Morse has become available, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Zduriencik has already begun that conversation with Washington GM Mike Rizzo.
The one thing we can be sure of is that Towers will be trying his best to unload Upton before pitchers and catchers report next month, as reports suggest there is a “strained relationship” between the player and organization. Time will tell how this will play out, but it’s obvious Upton won’t be making this already arduous process any easier.
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