Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, one of the most plugged in journalists out there, had this to say yesterday: "I'll believe Justin Upton will be a Diamondback in 2013 when I see him in an Arizona uniform on Opening Day." Could the Indians be a fit as a potential trading partner?
It would seem that after trading away Chris Young over the weekend, Arizona might not want to send away any more outfielders, but the sense is they have some depth there and have been frustrated by Upton's up-and-down progression as a player. Rosenthal went on to speculate that the Diamondbacks would be looking for either starting pitching or a shortstop if they decide to shop Upton. The Indians certainly don't have any pitching to send to Arizona, most of their pitching is barely good enough to be worth sending to Columbus. However, shortstop might be a different story.
First, a look at Justin Upton:
As you can see, Upton was one of the best players in baseball in 2011 (his bWAR of 5.7 ranked 5th in the National League), but his production fell off in 2012 (his bWAR was 2.1). I happen to think the 2011 version of Upton is much closer to what we're going to see from him in the next few years. The lists of players who've had seasons like Upton's at the age of 21 or 23 are very impressive.
Upton is signed through 2015 for a total of $38.5M. I'd rather have Upton for the next three years than any of the free agents available (not that the Indians are going to sign any of the top guys).
Shortstop is one of the few positions the Indians seem solid at for the foreseeable future, between Asdrubal Cabrera and a list of minor league prospects headed by Francisco Lindor.
Upton and Cabrera aren't as far apart in overall production as one might suspect, bWAR actually has them tied at 7.8 for 2011 and 2012 combined. Fangraphs doesn't see it as even, favoring Upton 8.9 to 6.7. If you split the difference, Upton comes out 0.6 wins ahead per season.
Upton is also two years younger, which is an important difference between the two players. Upton is signed for an extra year too (though when compare 3 years for $38.5M (Upton) to 2 years for $16.5 (Cabrera) that additional year is costing $22M).
I'm not attempting to argue Upton for Cabrera straight-up has a chance of happening, just that they aren't so far apart that it couldn't be the foundation for a deal. Would an outfield prospect like LeVon Washington or Luigi Rodriguez get make up the difference and interest Arizona?
Would it take more than that, a Major League player like Michael Brantley being included?
Justin Upton for Francisco Lindor, who says "No?"
The other issue to any potential trade is that Cleveland is on Upton's no-trade list. Oftentimes big market teams are on such lists so that a player can push for a big extension before agreeing to a trade to a wealthy team. Obviously the Indians don't fit that scenario, so Upton has other reasons, but it doesn't mean something couldn't be worked out.
Also, while shortstop is probably the position the Indians are best positioned to move in an impact deal, they aren't the only team well situated. Texas could offer even more, with Elvis Andrus comparable to Cabrera in overall production at SS and also three years younger, and the Rangers own SS mega-prospect, Jurickson Profar seemingly ready to step into the lineup even sooner than Lindor.
The Indians acquiring Justin Upton isn't likely, but it also isn't entirely out of the question. The Tribe could then go out and get B.J. Upton too, giving the team a vibe it hasn't had since Roberto and Sandy Alomar were here together!
If you were in charge, would you be wiling to deal away Cabrera and a couple prospects to get him?
Do you think that would be enough to get it done?
Does it make any sense to acquire a player for the next three seasons if many of the Tribe's best prospects are still a year or two away from being big league ready?
Would you deal Lindor to get him?
How much does Upton interest YOU???