According to Ken Rosenthal, if the Arizona Diamondbacks fall from contention, they will pursue any option in the trade market, including trading their 24-year old superstar Justin Upton. Considering Upton’s ability, age, contract, and status, he would become perhaps the most sought after player on the market this year. While it seems crazy to consider trading a player so young and gifted, perhaps that is exactly why Arizona GM Kevin Towers may be looking into it. Towers might feel that Upton’s value will never be higher.
Despite struggling so far in 2012, Upton finished 4th in the National League in MVP voting in 2011. He hit 31 home runs, stole 21 bases, and hit .289/.369/.529 while playing above-average defense in right field. Upton is owed $6.75 million in 2012, $9.75M in 2013, $14.25M in 2014, and $14.5M in 2015, which would be his age 27 season. For a power-hitting outfielder in his prime, those are bargain-rate salary figures.
The odds of the Diamondbacks truly falling so far out of contention that they would trade Upton are low. Currently, Arizona is six games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, and five games out of the Wild Card race. Considering there are now two wild card spots, it is likely that the Diamondbacks may be more reluctant to shift the gearstick into full “sellers” mode.
If they do pursue that route and Upton is shopped around, it is almost a guarantee that every MLB team will join in on the feeding frenzy. Towers will likely be able to name his price, and have it met. The price could become quite a haul of high-ceiling prospects and young MLB-ready players. As these talks heat up, look for the following teams to jump to the front of the pack of possible trade partners, based on their combination of available prospects and need for a player like Upton.
Texas Rangers – A farm system stacked with intriguing prospects, and given the impending free agency of Josh Hamilton, Upton could be a sublime replacement on a corner outfield position.
Toronto Blue Jays – High-ceiling pitching is a hot commodity in trade talks, and Toronto has those in abundance. The addition of Upton to their current outfield of Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus might push the Blue Jays over the top to become serious contenders for several years.
St. Louis Cardinals – This farm system is ripe for the picking, with several prospects on the doorstep of ready for the big leagues. Adding Upton would not only help them in their 2012 campaign, but would give the Cardinals another big bat to go along with Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran.
Atlanta Braves – Although it might deplete their farm system to acquire Upton, matching him alongside Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward would give Atlanta one of the youngest, most electric outfield trios in all of baseball.
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