It may still be September, but for teams like the Boston Red Sox (and arguably the Arizona Diamondbacks), the offseason may as well be here. There is nothing left to be done about the 2012 season; it's time to start planning for 2013.
For the Red Sox, this hopefully means building a contending team without going overboard on contracts which could put them right back where they began with Carl Crawford. For the Diamondbacks, this appears to mean selling.
There's nothing new about Justin Upton rumors. They've been around for a couple of years now, with the Sox featuring heavily in last year's batch. Is now the time to pull the trigger?
Justin Upton is a very talented player. There's no questioning that. While he's having kind of a bad season, struggling to the tune of a 99 wRC+, there are suggestions that this is the work of lingering injuries, and we've certainly seen enough bat out of Upton in the past to know he's not a below-average offensive player.
The problem will, of course, be price.
Money-wise, there shouldn't be any issues. While the Sox are specifically trying to avoid getting locked into big-money deals, Upton is already signed on for three years at a reasonable (and backloaded) $13 million per year. It's a contract that doesn't look particularly good for a player with a 99 wRC+, but looks amazing for a potential franchise player. And if an extension is in the cards, Upton is just barely 25, making it hard for any deal to be particularly dangerous.
The problem lies in the return. Before the year, it seemed like any trade for Upton would need to have Jacoby Ellsbury as the foundation. Now, of course, that deal doesn't seem likely to fly. Ellsbury has had an atrocious year at the plate, of course, and now just has one year left on his contract, making him of limited value to a team like the Diamondbacks.
Now, if this were still the 2011 Justin Upton, he would command a massive price. The thing is, while his 2012 should have instilled enough doubts to drive the price down, I have my doubts that the Diamondbacks will land in reasonable territory. For all that 2012 has been bad for him, and as clear as it is that the Diamondbacks want to be rid of Upton, he has that "franchise player" designation that instantly drives his price through the roof.
The Sox certainly have the prospects to make any deal happen. Between Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts, and a system with tons of depth, there's not many trades that they couldn't get in on. But if the Sox are going to unload more than one of those top prospects, it's gonna have to be for a really incredible player, and with a couple of down years to his name, Upton just isn't the sure thing I'd go with.
This brings us to the backup plan of Chris Young that's been bandied about, which can probably be dispensed with quickly. Chris Young is a decent player. He'll hit a few homers, provide a good outfield glove, but not much else besides that. The Red Sox just don't need that right now, particularly. He's a guy whose value is built largely from his defense, and even if the Sox move Ross to left and put Young in the spacious right field of Fenway, it seems like they'd be better off giving someone like Jerry Sands a run and hoping his bat will translate. There's just not much upside in Young, and upside is what the Sox have to be looking for in 2013.
If the Diamondbacks find an empty market for Diamondbacks, then the Sox should certainly take a look at picking up the scraps, as it were. But getting in a bidding war for a player with a price like Upton's when he has question marks like Upton does just doesn't make sense for a team that could have an amazing youth movement in its immediate future.