Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers says the team is still in “win mode” but he is dangling 24-year-old outfielder and general all-around good player Justin Upton out there. Towers claims he only wants players in return who will help the major league club, not prospects. You know, because Upton still is a prospect at this point.
Upton is hitting .273 with a with a fairly pedestrian .754 OPS, well below his career average of .834. The 2011 season was his fourth full year in the big leagues and was finally the breakout campaign he’d been expected to have since he arrived in Phoenix at 19 years old.
However, his statistics show that he will get on base and hit for power (OPS at or above .798 every year) but he’s not going to blow the number-crunchers away either. He does not walk very much (33 this year, 59 in 2011) and he strikes out about twice as much as he walks (already 74 K’s this year, 126 in 2011, and 152 in 2010). He has struck out at least 121 times in every full season he has played in Major League Baseball.
While his statistics make him something of a three true outcomes darling, whatever team decides to trade for Upton is not getting a lineup-changing bat. Upton is above average, but not by a lot like some would have you think. There’s a reason Towers is looking to trade him for MLB help instead of prospects, right?
Or maybe there isn’t a reason. Maybe Towers is just trading a guy to trade a guy because the D-Backs are hovering around .500 and are rapidly falling behind the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West and Wild Card races.
But other MLB teams have statistical analysts too, so they’ll see the same things you and I can on Upton’s ESPN stats page. Well, maybe not my San Diego Padres, but they don’t have much talent to trade to Arizona anyway. Except Chase Headley, who may or may not have ever hit a home run in the majors.
This is only a story because the trade market this year is truly, madly, deeply anemic, with the aforementioned Padres third baseman as the only guy of any note at his position on the market. That’s why Upton is only garnering mild interest from the usual buyers at the deadline (i.e. the Yankees and Red Sox) and the top teams with actual interest in Upton are the freaking Blue Jays and Pirates.
If you’re one of the believers that Upton is still developing and could explode at any minute, then trading him away makes even less sense. Kevin Towers does not have a history of trading away good prospects for immediate MLB help. Oh, wait.
There was the time he traded Derrek Lee for Kevin Brown (which worked, I’m just citing precedent, not judging). In 2003 he traded Jason Bay (a top-level prospect who had played just three games with the Padres) and the wild but talented Oliver Perez for Brian Giles. In 2006 he traded second base prospect Josh Barfield for Indians third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to shore up the left side of the Padres’ infield (hah!).
The coup de grace is in 2007 when he traded third base prospect (and 2011 NLCS and World Series MVP) David Freese for Jim freaking Edmonds, which barely counts as major-league help.
So yes, Towers has a mixed history when it comes to trading still-developing players for “major league help,” and his time with the Padres got him pretty used to hovering around .500. However, I’m not sure Diamondbacks ownership and fans want one of the organization’s biggest talents, who also happens to be a five-tool player in his fifth full major league season, traded away for some combination of aging sluggers and relief pitching.
As a Padres fan, however, I’m hoping he makes some kind of underwhelming deal before the deadline just so he can completely destroy the D-Backs chances at making the playoffs and give Padres fans something to laugh about. Because there’s nothing funny about Padres baseball this year. Who doesn’t love .391 baseball?!?