Justin Upton has been placed on the trade block twice since general manager Kevin Towers took over the Arizona Diamondbacks two winters ago. He's young, talented, and many believe he's the kind of player you build around. While that might make it odd in terms of a trade -- why get rid of someone you don't have to that is potentially a building block? -- that's also the kind of player you can potentially receive a huge, franchise-changing return for, if things line up in Arizona's favor. No one is forcing them to deal Upton, and they get to see if someone is willing to force them to by paying like crazy for the outfielder.
That's what makes Buster Olney's latest for ESPN intriguing:
The Arizona Diamondbacks spoke to multiple teams about Justin Upton during the season, and rival executives expect they will trade the right fielder this winter. But some club officials also believe Arizona will move center fielder Chris Young, as well. Arizona could go into next season with an outfield of Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton if it deals both Upton and Young, and the team's clear focus will be adding a shortstop, such as the Rangers' Elvis Andrus.
Other teams seem to feel this time, Upton is going to be dealt. With three years and $38.5 million left on his deal, it shouldn't be difficult to move him, even coming off of a disappointing season in which he hit just .272/.349/.407. The hangup, as it's always been, will be if the Diamondbacks are satisfied with the return they are getting. Should the Red Sox bother getting involved?
The Red Sox have the space financially to acquire Upton, and, given their need for some power in the lineup, he would make a whole lot of sense. There are plenty of warning signs that might make giving up all of the prospects it would to make him a Bostonian not worth it, though. As said, Upton is coming off of a poor season, the worst full campaign of his career. He's had many up-and-down experiences already, a story that can be told by OPS+:
Upton is generally a bit better than average, or excellent. He's had a "breakout" season on two different occasions, and has already rebounded from one down year. His shoulder, which has caused problems for him in the past, has been at fault before, but in 2012, that's not the case. It's been a bunch of little things -- thumb sprain, leg cramps, ankle contusion, hamstring tightness -- conspiring to hurt his line.
There are other issues at play as well. For his career, Upton has been a far superior hitter at home, in hitter-friendly Arizona, than on the road, to the point where it bears mentioning:
These are some sizable samples here, and Upton just ins't the same hitter on the road. With his previous strikeout rates, the lack of an inflated batting average on balls in play was killer. It doesn't hurt quite as much now that he's cut the punch outs from 27 percent and more down to about 20 percent, but it still effects his overall production.
Fenway is a hitter's park too, though, so Upton's lines might be similar, but if you want a hitter that is going to crush it at home and be far less productive on the road, the Sox can just re-sign Cody Ross and keep their prospects, more than making up for the difference in potential. Upton is the superior player, with the superior ceiling, but if it comes to minimizing risk, that's the route to take.
Given the price that will be attached to Upton, despite the potential issues surrounding him, it might be best for Boston to stay out of negotiations. That doesn't mean they should not talk to the Diamondbacks at all, though: if Arizona also wants to deal Chris Young, then they might want to give Kevin Towers a call.
Young is owed $8.5 million in 2013, and has an option for 2014 for $11 million, with a $1.5 million buyout. He's a plus defender in center field, and while the Red Sox have Jacoby Ellsbury, they don't have a corner outfielder locked up for 2013 just yet. Young could stick in right or left for a season, then, if he does well enough to justify having his option picked up, could be a part of the 2014 Red Sox, either because Ellsbury has departed, or because one of the top outfield prospects (Bryce Brentz, Jackie Bradley) hasn't quite made it to Boston yet. Or, a combination of both, if that's what it comes to.
Young is having a down year, but, like Ellsbury, had to deal with a separated shoulder early on. Despite this, he's hit .229/.309/.436 in 356 plate appearances, going deep 14 times with 38 extra-base hits overall. Like with Upton, there are home/road splits to consider, but Young's are nowhere near as severe. He also has the whole plus defender thing going on for him, and gives the Red Sox the aforementioned outfield insurance they don't currently possess.
Young is on a three-year run of .243/.330/.436, where, according to Baseball Reference, he has amassed over 11 wins above replacement, in large part due to his glove. With the option, Boston gets built-in insurance against Young failing to rebound, as well as a second opportunity to capitalize on him if he does. He might not get the baseball blood pumping like Justin Upton does, but, if the price is right, he could do a lot to help out the Red Sox in the short-term.