When Justin Upton nixed a proposed deal to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, the chatter started about which team may be the frontrunner to acquire the two-time all star. On Sunday, Chris Bahr of sportingnews.com reported that the Atlanta Braves may be the top contender for Upton’s services.
In November Atlanta signed Justin’s brother B.J. to a five year contract worth $75 million. By doubling up on Uptons, the Braves would have an imposing outfield of the two brothers as well as Jason Heyward. All three would be under contract for at least the next three years. Buster Olney of ESPN.com also considers Atlanta a likely suitor reporting that the Braves are “lying in the weeds” in the Upton sweepstakes.
The Texas Rangers, once considered the frontrunner in the Upton bidding have apparently pulled back. Other teams that have been thought to be interested in the 25-year old outfielder include the Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres and New York Yankees.
The national media continues to follow the rumors and reports as though it is a foregone conclusion that Upton will be traded before the start of spring training. The big question is why are the Diamondbacks so intent on trading their best player? At 25-years old Justin Upton is entering his prime; he has a reasonable contract that locks him up for the next three years; has been a two-time all star; finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2011; and despite a decline in production in 2012, Upton was second in the National League in runs scored with 107, one behind Ryan Braun of Milwaukee. As reported by the MLB Network, “there must be something they (the Diamondbacks) know that we don’t.” The trade rumors surrounding Upton started last season at the trading deadline and haven’t slowed since.
Arizona’s crowded outfield situation further complicates the issue. In October the Diamondbacks traded Chris Young to the Oakland Athletics to clear the way for Adam Eaton to take over in centerfield and become their long sought after leadoff hitter. Just before Christmas, in an unexpected turn, the D’backs signed free agent Cody Ross to a three-year $26 million contract. The acquisition of Ross immediately started speculation that Jason Kubel who hit .256 with 30 home runs and 90 RBI in 2012, would be dealt. Kubel led the club in home runs and RBI but slumped badly over the last two months. Kubel is also seen as a defensive liability in left field. The Diamondbacks also have 2011 Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra who has been a valuable fourth outfielder but sees himself as an every-day player. Throw into the mix major league ready youngster A.J. Pollack and you have quite a conundrum. Although this week’s Upton noise has drowned out other rumors, Kubel has been linked to possible deals to the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. In any case, it is a near certainty that Kubel or Upton, or even possibly both will be dealt before the first pitch of 2013. The best thing fans can do for now is to keep their ear’s to the ground and don’t rule out the unexpected.