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 Justin Upton.
Is it time for the 24-year-old right fielder and the D- backs 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- backs 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 smiling.
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 behind.
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 around.
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 their 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.