The major league baseball hot stove has begun simmering, and while some teams have already completed blockbuster deals (here's looking at you, Miami and Toronto), the Arizona Diamondbacks continue to weigh their options as they look to construct their 2013 roster.
When word leaked that General Manager Kevin Towers was once again listening to offers for right fielder Justin Upton at last week's annual general manager meetings, was anyone surprised? I wasn't. It's time for him and the D-backs to go their separate ways.
Team management has continually denied a desire to move Upton and have said on many occasions they'd be surprised if he was traded. Yet, here we are in the midst of another offseason and Upton's name is, for the third time, the focal point of hot stove chatter.
The Diamondbacks can say it is team protocol to "listen" on every player, but, if I am Upton, I would be peeved. If they keep me, I can't imagine I would be a happy right fielder reporting to camp, and an unhappy Upton could likely be a similar version to the 2012 version or worse.
In 2012, Upton hit .280 with just 17 home runs and 67 RBI. He was hampered by a thumb injury throughout the season, which could have attributed to the significant drop in power from his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011.
If the D-backs were unhappy with Upton's production, attitude and clubhouse presence last season, can you even fathom the kind of disaster they'll have on their hands if they bring back the 25-year-old right fielder after he's endured a winter of hearing his name dragged through the mud and linked to numerous suitors? There is likely to be irreparable damage and discord between the D-backs front office and Upton.
Most athletes of Upton's caliber expect their organization to build around them, stroke their ego and give them a public vote of confidence. Whether right or wrong, the D-backs have not treated Upton like a franchise player. Instead, he's been treated as if he's one of the problems.
Upton is now painfully aware that he's not wanted in Arizona. It doesn't matter who or how many people want him gone. The fact is someone does and that's enough to sabotage the relationship between player and team.
Don't forget the fact the D-backs moved Upton's close friend Chris Young this winter, and don't disregard the effect it may have had on the team's decision to re-open discussions on Upton. Team brass seem to be doing everything in their power to change the culture and face of this team, which I personally applaud them for after a disappointing and underwhelming 2012 campaign.
I think Upton will go on to have a very successful and possibly still star-studded career, but it won't be in Arizona. Let's face it, as long as Upton's a D-back, he'll be part of trade rumors. He's trade bait and that won't change. How can anyone be expected to fulfill their potential with that cloud of uncertainty and feeling of unwantedness hanging over their head? He will benefit from a change of scenery, but if he stays in the Valley, fans and the club alike can expect to be let down by Upton.
The D-backs have to end this song and dance with Justin Upton, and the sooner the better for all parties involved.
As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the Arizona
Diamondbacks have some important decisions to make about
this season, and most notably their future with or without
Is it time for the 24-year-old right fielder and the D-
to part ways? Could it be in the best interest for
both the player and the franchise? I believe it is.
The D-backs find themselves with a 48-48 record, five
games behind the first place San Francisco Giants.
Theoretically, they are still very much alive in a
mediocre NL West, and if they opt to hold on to
Upton or choose to be buyers at the deadline, they may
make the playoffs.
But maybe instead of making a move to boost morale or
holding onto Upton to appease the fan base, this is the
time for the D-backs to be bold and alter the complexion
of the team for the future.
It would be such a statement move if general manager Kevin
Towers opted to deal the most valuable and coveted chip on
his roster in Upton.
The argument on whether to deal Upton or not has been
exhausted and there seems to be no clear cut consensus on
what the best move is for the Diamondbacks. But for the
sake of argument I'll throw in my two cents -- Upton is
without question an extremely gifted ballplayer, who began
to ascend to greatness last season.
The D-backs right fielder finished fourth in the NL MVP
voting and appeared on the cusp of becoming one of the
game's best in 2012. But, he hasn't. Upton has enjoyed an
offensive surge of late, but is still hitting just .276
with eight home runs and 41 RBI this season. His .774 OPS
is also down from .898 a year ago.
Upton's off-field persona has also taken a hit due to
rumors of a poor attitude and controversial comments to
the media, which have reportedly caused him to fall out of
favor with some members of the organization.
It's ironic that Upton is the epitome of what the 2012 D-
have proven to be, an underachieving and
frustratingly disappointing team that has failed to live
up to the lofty expectations that preceded them entering
the year. Sometimes all it takes is a change at the top to
get the other cogs on the team rolling again.
If the D-backs are able to maximize the market for Upton
and land talented and major league-ready prospects that
can have an almost immediate impact on the team, they
should do it.
The D-backs should demand a king's ransom for Upton, and
they won't settle for any package that isn't elite in
return. But if the Snakes can get something similar to
what the Rangers acquired from the Braves in exchange for
first baseman Mark Teixeira in 2007, they should come away
The Braves sent Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt
Harrison, Beau Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the
Rangers for Teixeira. Teixeira, like Upton, was not a
rental player. He was only under contract for the 2008
season yet garnered a swoon-worthy package of players from
Atlanta. Andrus, Feliz and Harrison figured prominently in
the Rangers' two straight AL pennants in 2010 and 2011,
and they've certainly transformed the face of that Texas
team. With Upton only being 24 years old and having three
years remaining under his contract, the return he could
net for Arizona stands to be monumental.
For me, the D-backs' odds seem better to build around a
fresh crop of talent and rebrand themselves, without J-Up
in the fold. That's not to say Upton won't go on to be the
great player we all anticipated he'd be, because that's
certainly a possibility. But even if he does, just as
Teixeira did in his post-Rangers career, it's not
catastrophic. I'd say Texas is doing just fine and would
make the same deal two-thousand times over.
The D-backs could be like the Rangers, and build a viable
World Series contender for years to come after saying
farewell to a prominent face. Trading a very visible
figure on a team is never easy, and is often subject to
some backlash. But sometimes it's essential in building a
longer lasting winning franchise -- and believe me, that
will be a team even the biggest Upton supporters will get
If the D-backs keep Upton, can they win with him in the
future? The answer is muddled because Upton has shown he
is not a proven commodity the team can rely on to build
But can the D-backs win without Upton? Yes, I believe they
can, if they get the right mix of young players and
prospects in return. It might not punch them a ticket to
this year's postseason, but the goal is a championship,
and anything short is a disappointment.
If the Diamondbacks have shown anything consistent during
2012 campaign, it is they are painfully inconsistent. They
lack the never-say-die attitude, a different hero emerging
every night to help the team win and, of course, Justin
Upton mashing the cover off the ball.
The D-backs' problems go far deeper than one man, and in
no way am I trying to make Justin Upton a scapegoat for
this club's failures. But he very well could be the ticket
to the Diamondbacks' future success.