Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Diamondbacks are exploring options to trade Justin Upton. Just like winter of 2010. Just like summer of 2012. Now the Dbacks winter of 2012 will be dominated by Upton rumors until he is actually traded or he takes the field Opening Day 2013. The General Managers meeting is set for mid-December, and as that is when most trades take place, it could mark the end of Upton’s tenure in the desert.
The reasons for trading him are apparent. He is so talented, making his tendency to be prone to slumps mind-numbingly frustrating. The Phoenix fan base interpret his stern demeanor as apathetic, especially when he is struggling during losing streaks. A managing partner of the team has gone so far as to call him “an enigma.” He strikes out with more frequency than the team would like, and some of the errors he makes in right field leave you scratching your head.
So where could he go? The obvious answer is the Texas Rangers. It just makes sense. With Josh Hamilton leaving, they have a hole in their outfield. With rookie phenom Jurickson Profar seemingly ready to step in at shortstop, that leaves Elvis Andrus without a place to play. As it just so happens, the Dbacks need a shortstop. An Upton-Andrus swap fits the needs of both teams.
Another team that could insert themselves into the discussion is the Seattle Mariners. They are desperate for offense, and with their park known for being notoriously pitcher-friendly, attracting free agents has always been a tough job for the M’s. Trades appear to be their best option. If a hitter like Upton became available, Seattle has the pieces to make the swap. A deal would most likely include a young pitcher like Danny Hultzen, James Paxton or Tuijan Walker, as well as a third baseman like Kyle Seager or Alex Liddi.
Reports also rose that the Dbacks would be willing to listen to trade offers for top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. That led Dave Cameron of Fangraphs to suggest packaging both Upton and Bauer to the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price and Tim Beckham. It is exactly the kind of package the Dbacks were hoping to get- an ace pitcher in Price to slot in front of Ian Kennedy, and a high-end shortstop prospect in Beckham.
The Diamondbacks could also do what some consider to be their best option: keep him. He is still a 25-year old hitter that has gone to two All-Star games and has yet to reach his prime. He finished fourth in the 2011 MVP voting. If Upton gets traded, he will undoubtably flourish on whatever team he is traded to. The Dbacks would need to receive players of comparable quality to ease the pain of watching him star elsewhere. GM Kevin Towers is a master when it comes to receiving talent for trading star players (e.g. Jake Peavy in 2009 from the Padres) and the Dbacks need to trust him. Whatever he does will be in the best interests of the team for 2013 and beyond. Whether or not that will be with Justin Upton remains to be seen.