June 24, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton (10) hits a two RBI single during the eighth inning at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks beat the Cubs 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

If Justin Upton is available, the Blue Jays need to call

Jun. 23, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton (10) during the fourth inning against Chicago Cubs at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

Justin Upton is on the trade block… again. During the 2010 offseason, news leaked that Arizona might be willing to part with their franchise cornerstone, and the baseball world tied itself in a knot trying to figure out where he was going and for what. The team obviously never received an offer they deemed fair, as they held on to Upton and he responded with a career best year, producing a 139 OPS+ and being worth 5.7 or 6.4 WAR, depending upon whether you prefer the Baseball Reference or Fangraphs calculation. As a 23 year old, he was named an All Star, won a Silver Slugger Award, and finished fourth in MVP voting. He was one of the most exciting and talented players in baseball.

Now, just past the midpoint of the 2012 season, Arizona is once again shopping their right fielder. His performance has fallen off substantially, hitting only .273/.353/.401 through 289 at-bats. With a .324 wOBA, 97 RC+, and 1.2 WAR, even the advanced metrics can’t find many positives from his season. In short, he’s been a roughly league average player. Upton’s struggles have carried over to the team, as Arizona entered the break with a 42-43 record, four games back of the first place Dodgers. Just last year the Diamondbacks won 94 games to take the NL West – the second place Giants were eight games back – and despite a similar roster they haven’t been able to find their groove.

Back in June, the Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick had some harsh words for Upton, saying:

“He’s certainly not the Justin Upton that he has been in the past and that we would expect of him,” Kendrick said. “He’s 24 years old and it’s time for him to be a consistent performer and right now this year he’s not been that.”

It’s not common for an owner to call out any players, let alone his star player, and for good reason. Such comments can create a divide in the locker room, and come contract negotiation time, players won’t forget being publicly embarrassed. Imagine how things would have gone if the Rogers conglomerate had come out in late April and said Jose Bautista isn’t doing enough, despite literally carrying the team on his back last season. The fan backlash would have been palpable, and trade demands would have likely hit the airwaves shortly thereafter. Thankfully, nothing stupid was said, and as Jose always does, he rediscovered his stroke and is beating down the world one fastball at a time.

Back to Upton, if Arizona is foolish enough to make their franchise player available, you have to imagine the Blue Jays would be (or have been) one of the first to make a call. Upton is exactly the type of player Alex Anthopolous covets; young, athletic, dynamic, and under control (through 2015). The salary is not inconsequential, as over the final three years of the deal, Upton will earn 38.5 million, plus the remainder of this year’s 6.75 million. Given the team’s reluctance to hand elite free agents more than five years, the front office should be more than able to swallow three years at a high (but reasonable) salary.

Thanks to the Arizona beat reporters –- namely Nick Piecoro -– we at least have some idea what Kevin Towers, the Diamondbacks general manager, might be seeking in trade. Piecoro suggests the team is looking for a third baseman, shortstop, or top of the rotation starter. The first two requests make a ton of sense for Arizona. Between Ryan Roberts (258 PA), Cody Ransom (58 PA), Josh Bell (56 PA), and Geoff Blum (23 PA), the Diamondbacks have received a grand total of 0.0 WAR from their third basemen. At shortstop the team has Stephen Drew, but he only just returned from a long trip on the disabled list, and has free agency firmly in his sights. As a Scott Boras client there’s little doubt he’s going to test the waters, and recent comments made by the team suggest they’re not overly enthusiastic about bringing him back.

Despite possibly shipping their starting right fielder, outfield isn’t a pressing concern for the Diamondbacks. Between Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel, and top prospects A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton, the team could fill the void for the at least remainder of the year, before re-evaluating the position in the offseason. The top of the rotation starter request is a little less obvious, as despite losing Daniel Hudson to Tommy John surgery this week, they still have a strong core in Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Wade Miley. The team’s top prospect Trevor Bauer recently joined the staff, and Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley, and Andrew Chafin are continuing to develop in the minor leagues while all possessing big ceilings. Their desire for a pitcher is likely due to the old adage “You can never have enough pitching”, and given the ridiculous amount of arm injuries to strike baseball this year, it’s hard to fault them in that regard.

With all that being said, what do the Blue Jays have to offer? Third base is basically a non starter, as despite Justin Upton’s immense ability, there is literally a 0% chance Alex Anthopolous would include Brett Lawrie in a deal. In terms of talent, salary, and public relations, he’s far too valuable to this team. At shortstop, however, there appears to be a match. Adeiny Hechavarria is performing extremely well in Triple-A this year, and the Diamondbacks are said to be a fan of his abilities. Like Toronto, Arizona has their Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, so they’re well aware of the environment and the effect it can have on hitters and pitchers respectively.

Adeiny Hechavarria at bat with the Las Vegas 51s. BRENDAN KENNEDY / TORONTO STAR

In addition to Hechavarria, the Blue Jays have plenty of pitchers with top of the rotation potential for Arizona to look at. From the Lansing trio, the Diamondbacks would likely be focused on Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez, as both have clearly taken a step ahead of the left handed Justin Nicolino. Down in Bluefield, Daniel Norris and Kevin Comer might interest them, but their proximity (or lack thereof) to the major leagues might be a debilitating factor.

Hechavarria and a pitcher would obviously be insufficient to peel Upton away, so the Blue Jays would need to add more. As much as it hurts, that likely starts with one of the elite centerfield prospects, Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick. They would likely favor Marisnick as he’s roughly a year and a half away, and as I mentioned, Arizona’s outfield need isn’t immediate. Gose should be ready within the next couple of months, and while he’s an elite defender, Arizona already has one of those in Chris Young. Both Young and Gose would lose a lot of value if shifted to a corner, so for the Diamondbacks, Marisnick is the more logical choice.

To round out the package, I’d offer Yan Gomes. He’s not in the Blue Jays top 30 prospects, but he could give Arizona some much needed offense from third base. Additionally, in the National League, his ability to play catcher, first base, and even some left field would be a huge positive. The Diamondbacks would like to contend again in 2013, and Gomes’ offensive spark and defensive versatility could fill a huge hole on their team until Matt Davidson, the team’s top third base prospect, is ready.

Would Jake Marisnick, Noah Syndergaard (or Aaron Sanchez), Adeiny Hechavarria, and Yan Gomes get the deal done with Arizona? Is it too much for the team to give up? The Blue Jays and Diamondbacks match up well, and I think an offer like this would be one of the best Arizona would receive. In addition to developing players for your own team, the other purpose of a farm system is to use in trade to acquire elite big league talent. As a prospect guy, losing these players would hurt, but for a player like Justin Upton, I’d make the deal. What do you think?

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Tags: Aaron Sanchez Adeiny Hechavarria Arizona Diamondbacks Jake Marisnick Justin Upton Noah Syndergaard Trade Yan Gomes

  • saucepaws

    Kirk Gibson isn’t the team’s GM. Kevin Towers is.

    • rockshu

      Wow, huge miss on my part. Thanks lol

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JJP4BVCJP4LH36IKHAAVW25A34 Mathieu

    obviously but Kirk Gibson also tells the GM what he would like to get. Farrell has been talking like a GM in toronto for the past month. He’s telling the media what his team needs, what they are looking for and what AA is doing about it. ( AA doesn’t have to do press conferences)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JJP4BVCJP4LH36IKHAAVW25A34 Mathieu

    and for the record, I would do this deal anyday!! I think its fair for both teams. Also would like to point out with J bau, Upton ( if we get him) and rasmus are blocking Anthony Gose, Could we get a controlled, ace-like pitcher for him in a package? ohhh i can dream.

    • rockshu

      I would imagine that, with a deal structured like this (i.e. no major league players being involved), the eventual alignment (2013) would be: 1B Bautista, DH Encarnacion, LF Rasmus, CF Gose, RF Upton. If Upton has to play LF for the remainder of the year so that we can deal move Lind in the offseason and give Gose an outfield spot, so be it.

  • simlarry

    I wouldn’t give up much for Upton. His career road OPS is 744, and I wonder if his numbers are just inflated by playing in Arizona. He’s also due almost 40 mil over the next 3 yrs. I’d rather re-sign Encarnacion to a 3 year deal and keep Gose.

    • rockshu

      The same concerns were with Upton after 2010, then he destroyed baseball in 2011, even when you discount his home park factor. There are definitely flaws in his game, and if there weren’t, there’d be no way we’d be discussing the possibility of trading for him. Considering what Anthopolous had done with Morrow, Escobar, and Rasmus (i.e. buying elite talent at it’s lowest point), I think Upton plays right into his cards. And as I mentioned below, Upton would basically be replacing Adam Lind/David Cooper in the lineup. That’s a substantial upgrade. His addition shouldn’t have an impact on Encarnacion or Gose.

  • simlarry

    If the Jays can get Upton, for a package of B level prospects, great. But if it takes Gose, or heaven forbid Syndergaard, I want no part of it. I think Upton will end up ultimately being a tease like his brother, never living up to expectations. Although it might me interesting to see what Dwayne Murphy could do with him.

  • wtf

    Geez dude if you’re going to trade that package, get some pitching first!

  • steven

    Here is a better trade Escobar, Frasor, Gomes, Stilson, Marisnick for Upton and an B prospect. I believe giving up on the Lansing 3 is ridiculous and you are offering a top notch SS with 2 more options, a qualified reliever a top ten prospect and Gomes who is talented utility man and finally Stilson who is as good as any prospect on the rise. Just remember monies have to be sent out to cover the costs of salary coming in.

  • BigBat

    Why are we looking all over the place for position players when we have all the talent in house? Put Gose in left field and Hechavarria at second base. Then we would have the best defence in the majors and it would not cost us a penny!

    • simlarry

      I fully agree. I can’t wait to see what Gose, D’Arnaud, and Hechavarria can do in the majors next year. Cheap young major league talent is priceless. If the Jays do trade away prospects, I hope at least it’s for a top of the line starting pitcher.

    • rockshu

      Gose doesn’t have the bat for left field, and his defensive value would be wasted there. If the team is not going to put Gose in center and move Rasmus to left, they need to trade him and maximize his value.

  • Georgie

    Prospects won’t go as Arizona wants to win now…Jays would have to move some contract to take on Upton also. I see a Escobar + Romero type trade. This deal will force Jays to deal the prospects for couple of arms…Wandy with Astros picking up portion of his salary, and Dempster? Probably say goodbye to Snider, Stilson and Musgrove.

    • rockshu

      Romero will absolutely not be moved in a trade for Upton, that’s the last thing this team should do. Escobar I could see. If anything, perhaps the Blue Jays use their prospects for Wandy or Garza, then move that pitcher plus Escobar for Upton. It wouldn’t be dissimilar to the Colby Rasmus deal of a year ago. Not sure how much of a fan I’d be of moving Escobar though. He’s struggled this year at the plate, but he’s an above average defender and is actually ranked as the third best defensive shortstop in baseball this season.

    • steven

      Romero+ Hech+ Snider+ Gomes= Upton + Skaggs or Kennedy though I think there is a salary dump out of San Diego available, however, staying on topic