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Upton in Smoke: Trading Justin Would Send The Diamondbacks Back to the Basement
- Updated: July 17, 2012
We’re halfway through July, and that means one thing in Baseball Land: trade rumors. The July 31st trade deadline is quickly approaching, and with the new wild card additions to each league, there are more contenders than ever. As of July 15, 9 of MLB’s 30 teams are within 3.5 games of a wild card slot, creating a glut of front offices looking to improve their clubs. Names have begun to circulate, as teams like the stagnant Cubs and the flopping Phillies should begin to unload talent like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Cole Hamels, and Shane Victorino.
However, one unexpected name has cropped up on the buyers’ wish lists: Justin Upton. According to USA Today Sports, Arizona’s general manager Kevin Towers announced that everybody on the Diamondbacks’ roster is fair game, even the team’s talented right fielder. Even with his fluctuating veto list, Upton has become trade bait.
In my mind, this notion of dealing Upton is preposterous with regards to both 2012 campaign and future seasons. Forget the fact that No. 10 has wildly underachieved, with only 7 HR, 37 RBI, 10 SB and a .268/.351/.393 line through 81 games: the Diamondbacks are still playoff contenders. They have a 42-46 record that sits one hot streak away from an above-.500 winning percentage, which would also cut the 7-game gap between the Snakes and a wild-birth.
More importantly, this squad is largely the same group of players that won the NL West crown last year, so the pieces are there for a repeat. Yes, underachievers and injuries may have derailed a title defense in the West, but if people turn things around and play to their potential, the DBacks could make a run.
That being said, this is highly unrealistic with the way things have progressed in the desert; there are too many stronger contenders with less ground to make up, so the Diamondbacks were smart in grabbing their sellers’ hat and planning for the future. However, trading away Upton is ludicrous; Towers should aim to build his club around his young, five-tool right fielder, not knock down the foundation after one crummy season. Who would take his mantel of franchise player? Chris Young with his low, counting-number-crippling average? Child, please.
Upton has disappointed this year, but if Towers actually starts cleaning house, contending GMs will lowball him with offers based on Upton 2012, not Upton 2008-2011. The second model averaged 22.3 HR and 71.3 RBI in his first four years, and that was with only 356 at-bats in his sophomore season. That’s pretty impressive for a 24 year-old with above-average power, speed, and defense.
It’s hard not to be concerned with Upton’s mediocrity after looking at his brother’s inconsistencies with the Tamp Bay Rays. Scouts and executives have always considered Justin to be more talented than BJ, but Diamondbacks’ outfielder has not strung together back-to-back successful seasons in his major-league career. His 2009 and 2011 campaigns showed us signs of a great future, but we were shot back down to earth with duds in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
Again, Upton isn’t even 25 years old yet, but has put up above-average numbers during his short career. The inconsistencies have clearly killed Towers’ patience, but Upton’s prime is yet to come, and it could be epic based on his elite skill set. The Diamondbacks possess a slew of trading chips to gamble away for prospects, but Upton is a rare commodity, a diamond in the rough that Towers should not let through his fingers.