The GM's Office by Jim Bowden: Mike Olt
As early as two years ago the Arizona Diamondbacks had already made it public they were open to listening to offers for outfielder Justin Upton. They never got an offer they liked, so they held on to him. That decision paid off in 2011 when Upton hit .289 with 39 doubles, 31 home runs and helped lead the D-backs to an NL West championship while finishing fourth in the NL MVP voting.
However, that was then, this is now.
A year later, after Upton hit .280 with just 17 home runs, the club is back listening to offers. Although the team says it’ll listen on all players, the fact this has become as public as it has is no coincidence. The team has been aggressively trying to trade its 24-year-old talent and will surely be seeking a long-term solution at shortstop, third base and/or pitching help. While Arizona's ownership is now trying to downplay the likelihood of an Upton trade, we know the club is shopping him, and a deal should not surprise anyone.
Here is a look at five teams that might have the players that fit the Diamondbacks’ long-term needs. D-backs general manager Kevin Towers certainly should target them for an Upton trade.
Texas Rangers | Two tradesTrade option No. 1: SS Elvis Andrus or SS Jurickson Profar
This is one scenario that is already making the rounds, although the Rangers have told the Diamondbacks that they will not move either Andrus or Profar in a deal for Upton. Towers will be patient and meticulously work on persuading Rangers GM Jon Daniels, because the only way the Rangers get Upton is to swap him for one of the talented middle infielders. If Josh Hamilton signs elsewhere, that might force Daniels to change his mind. However, my intel says the Rangers aren't going to change their minds.
Option No. 2: 3B Mike Olt and LHP Martin Perez
If the Rangers really want Upton, they can try to convince Arizona to accept a package of Olt and Perez for Upton. This trade would work well for Texas because Adrian Beltre is signed long-term and with Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Yu Darvish, Perez is expendable. The problem is although Towers is a fan of Olt, he might not be good enough to be the centerpiece of an Upton deal. While it seems like Upton has been around forever, he is only a year older than Olt.
Detroit Tigers | Trade targets: 3B Nick Castellanos and RF Avisail Garcia
This is probably the best fit for Towers. Castellanos has the potential to be an impact bat who should develop into an average defender at third base, but he is blocked in the big leagues by the AL MVP, which is why the Tigers have tried him in the outfield, where he has less value. Garcia is a good athlete with bat control who should be an asset as a big league regular down the line.
The move would make the Diamondbacks younger and a high-ceiling player like Castellanos would fit their long-term plans. The Tigers, on the other hand, would have three above-average defenders in Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson and Upton and would have arguably the best lineup one through six in the American League with Jackson, Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Upton and Victor Martinez.
Tampa Bay Rays | Trade targets: RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Drew Vettleson
The Diamondbacks would like to get another proven starter and Hellickson is one of the better young pitchers in baseball. Hellickson, 25, has a career ERA of 3.06 and a 1.19 WHIP. Vettleson, 21, is a pure hitter with great plate discipline and the ability to use the whole field. His power finally showed up this year at low Class A Bowling Green when the 2010 supplemental first-rounder belted 24 doubles and 15 homers in 132 games.
Cleveland Indians | Trade targets: SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Vinnie Pestano
The Indians need a complete makeover after they went 68-94 last year. They took a step in the right direction with the hiring of two-time world champion manager Terry Francona. However, the next step is to rebuild the starting rotation and the middle of the lineup. The team’s best prospect is 18-year old Francisco Lindor, who the Indians feel will be their long-term solution at shortstop.
This might allow them to think about moving Cabrera in the right deal. The Diamondbacks, desperate for a long-term solution of their own at shortstop, would have to at least entertain the thought of an Upton-Cabrera move. Upton would give the Indians a much-needed cleanup hitter and middle-of-the-order bat that could anchor the lineup for years. And with Shin-Soo Choo set to be a free agent next winter, Upton could occupy right field for Cleveland. Knowing that Towers hates making deals without getting a bullpen arm in return, he might as well also ask for Pestano in this major trade.
Atlanta Braves | Trade targets: RHP Julio Teheran, SS Nick Ahmed
The Braves are set at shortstop for years to come with the exciting Andrelton Simmons. He is about as untouchable as any prospect in the organization, and that makes Ahmed expendable. (Word is the Rangers tried to use Olt to get Simmons in hopes of flipping him, Andrus or Profar for Upton, but the Braves wouldn't do it.)
Ahmed, 22, was the Braves' second-round selection in the 2011 draft and had a solid year at high Class A Lynchburg, both offensively and defensively while swiping 40 bases. Teheran remains the Braves’ top pitching prospect and once his command and control arrive, he should be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter for years. For the Braves, Upton would fit nicely in left field while Martin Prado could be moved to third base to replace Chipper Jones. While the Braves are known for sticking to a strict payroll, they are taking Jones off the books this year, and Upton's contract would replace Jones' in the budget.
If I was in Towers' shoes I wouldn’t trade Justin Upton. I would rather spend time trying to sign his brother, B.J., who could play center field next to him, and use Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock as trade pieces and find lesser upgrades on the left side of the infield. I think both Uptons have the potential of playing at even a higher level than we’ve seen, especially if they are able to play together. Why not in Arizona?
However, Wright’s long-term future in New York is hardly guaranteed.
First, discussions between Wright’s agents -- Sam and Seth Levinson -- and the Mets have been slow and grinding. Most negotiations with this team usually plod along, but the Mets also have shown the same cavalier attitude they demonstrated in the failed Jose Reyes negotiations in 2011. Not a good sign.
Second, for those who think the Mets won’t let the face of the franchise walk away, remember that current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is the one who said goodbye to future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman while in San Diego. Alderson also allowed then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy to depart for the NL West rival San Francisco Giants, where he would go on to win two World Series titles. In 1992, Alderson also traded Jose Canseco to the Texas Rangers in a blockbuster that was headlined by Ruben Sierra. Arguably the best trade of Alderson’s career might end up being the swap of All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants at the July 2011 trade deadline for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who should join the Mets’ starting rotation in 2013.
Needless to say, Alderson isn't afraid to trade star players.
That said, I still think the Mets and Wright will have a news conference sometime between now and the winter meetings next month in Nashville, Tenn., to announce a seven-year extension in the range of $18 million per season. If the Mets aren’t willing to commit, they don’t need to worry because most other teams will be. To trade Wright, the assignee club would have to ask for a window to sign him first because no team will fork over top prospects to the Mets without the assurance that Wright will sign a long-term deal.
Just in case the negotiations fall apart with the Mets, here are five trade partners that would make sense for Alderson.
The Red Sox have money off the books after trading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. Wright’s swing would be ideal for Fenway Park, and he would instantly change the culture with his leadership ability. He would give the Red Sox a new, fresh franchise face to go with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The discussion by Alderson would have to start with young third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks and one of Boston's top starting pitching prospects, such as Allen Webster, who recently was acquired from the Dodgers, or Matt Barnes, the Red Sox’s first-round selection in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut.
This conversation would have to commence with top first-base prospect C.J. Cron, a middle-of-the-lineup bat who was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Utah. Cron possesses incredible power and has a chance to be an impact bat with the ability to drive in 100 runs. The second player in the deal would have to be fleet-footed outfielder Peter Bourjos, who became expendable with the emergence of Mike Trout. Bourjos has Gold Glove defensive ability with special range. However, how much he’s going to hit is still debatable. Of course, with a deal like this, the Mets would then have to try to trade incumbent first baseman Ike Davis for another need.
The Diamondbacks have tremendous depth in young starting pitchers. The roll call is impressive: Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy. Therefore, they might be willing to make former No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer available for Wright, especially given that some of the Arizona field staff is frustrated with Bauer’s stubbornness and work plan.
Bauer has struggled with his command and control in the zone, and it might take time before he reaches his full, unlimited potential. To acquire an arm of this caliber and team it with Matt Harvey and Wheeler would establish an impressive young rotation capable of competing with the Washington Nationals’ elite young starters. The Mets should ask for a second player, as well, possibly center fielder Adam Eaton, a player who’s not blessed with special tools but can hit and really play the game with blue-collar grittiness.
The Royals could use a veteran leader in the clubhouse to develop all of their great young players such as Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Wright would bring them that leadership. Alderson could start the conversation asking for young third baseman Mike Moustakas, who could give the Mets a minimum of 20 home runs and 80 RBIs at third base for minimal cost.
However, a second player in the deal would be the key. Although Kansas City can’t afford to trade any of its top young pitching prospects or top position prospect Wil Myers (unless it was getting front-line pitching back), the Royals might be willing to include Cheslor Cuthbert or 2010 first-rounder Christian Colon to make a deal like this. However, given that the Royals’ only real need is starting pitching, it is doubtful they would want to spend this type of money -- or trade this kind of talent -- on anything but starting pitching.
I know this does not look like a fit because the Rangers already have the best overall third baseman in baseball in Adrian Beltre. However, if Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli leave in free agency, Texas will have to add another impact bat for the middle of its lineup. The Rangers have never been afraid to ask players to change positions -- just ask Michael Young -- so it’s probably worth making the phone call to see whether they would consider a Mike Olt, Derek Holland and Craig Gentry type of deal for Wright. Olt would solve third base; Holland would improve the rotation; and Gentry would give them a tremendous defensive center fielder with blazing speed and a bat that is still developing.
To be sure, the possibility of any of these five trade ideas actually coming to fruition is slim. Indeed, 98 percent of all deals that are discussed are never made, but the Mets must do their due diligence and Alderson must do himself that favor and explore all possibilities to maximize Wright’s value and price tag. If Wright’s value is highest by returning to the Mets -- and I think he'll re-sign when all is said and done -- you can count on that price tag to be in the neighborhood of seven years and $126 million.
And for Mets fans, who can’t stand the thought of the face of their favorite franchise in another uniform, that’s a bargain.
It was one of the busiest July 31 non-waiver trade deadlines in recent memory, but what about a handful of trades that did not happen but should have? These were deals that made a lot of sense, even perhaps got discussed between teams, yet never materialized. They could be the one deal that makes the difference between the postseason and sitting at home this fall.
Here are five trades that should have happened but didn't. But who knows? They might still have a chance of happening in August or the offseason.
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Dipoto’s shrewd move to jump in the market and find a way to get the game's best available starting pitcher from the Milwaukee Brewers was brilliant. Jean Segura -- the key prospect who went to Milwaukee -- is a promising middle infielder, but most Angels evaluators had him slotted behind second baseman Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, who are each locked up for a few years.
Whether the Texas Rangers, who also were in on Greinke, played "chicken" and lost, or just weren’t willing to part with prospects Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez or Mike Olt can be debated for years depending whom you talk to, but only Rangers GM Jon Daniels and Brewers GM Doug Melvin know for sure.
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Let’s clear up some things about Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton and the rumors he might be traded.
First, understand that general manager Kevin Towers is always willing to listen to trade ideas when other GMs ask about Upton, his best position player. Of course, that doesn't mean Towers is going to trade him. The fact is he isn’t close on any deal involving Upton right now.
Rumors have swirled about a potential deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the reality is Towers has had very few conversations with the Pirates. GM Neal Huntington did call Towers, as he has every other general manager as he seeks a young middle-of-the-order bat. However, the fact is the two teams don't match up well, and a third team probably would need to be involved for the Pirates to have a chance to trade for Upton.
Despite a slow start, Upton remains one of the best right fielders in baseball, and I can't imagine Arizona actually trading him. He's just a year removed from being an NL MVP candidate and leading the D-backs to an NL West title. At 24, his prime years are ahead of him, and his potential of hitting .300 with 35 home runs and 120 RBIs undoubtedly will be realized in time.
Further complicating matters is Upton's limited no-trade clause to four teams. The teams change from year to year, and ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported that the no-trade clause centers on big-market teams, and almost certainly includes the Yankees.
Nonetheless, where there is smoke there is usually fire, and these trade rumors are not completely without merit. With that in mind, I thought I would try to find five potential deals that might make sense for the D-backs to trade Upton. Keep in mind that these are simply deals I think would make sense for both parties, not necessarily deals that are on the table.
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