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Upton's Parked: Hammering to Follow

Apologies for the above headline, which about three people reading this blog will actually find as amusing as I do. Let's just say it's a British thing, and move rapidly on.

So, Justin Upton got his mega pay-day, setting a new record for a minor-league deal with a $6.1m payout, smashing the previous record of $5.3m in 2000. Though Upton's deal is only about 3.6% per year more, effectively taking inflation into account. He's also only getting about 15% so up front; it's reported that he'll get $1m more in 2007 and 2008, $1.3m in 2009 and the last $2 million not until 2010. Basically, Upton will initially be funded by turning Russ Ortiz upside down, and shaking him gently, and then Josh Byrnes can keep buying Powerball tickets for the next four years.

That seems a little weird, especially after we have shed two large wodges of salary this season, in the shapes of Javy and Troy. Is it just me, or do the Diamonbacks seem kinda cheap, to be digging down the back of the sofa, or buying a potential superstar on something approaching lay-away? Hey, might as well be ostentatious, and drive a limo up to his house with a few dancing girls holding a suitcase of $100 bills. That'd put the fear of God into the rest of the NL West. As well as Mrs. Upton, no doubt.

Though, at the risk of putting a damper on things, the man whose bonus record he broke - Joe Borchard - has hardly lived up to expectations so far. Now aged 27, he has played just 102 games for the White Sox, mustering a whopping .191 average. And dare I mention Travis Lee, who signed with Arizona for $10m, before he (or the franchise!) had ever seen major-league pitching? What did that get us? .252 in his three seasons here.

On the other hand...look at the next three seasons. Five - count 'em, five - credible candidates for Rookie of the Year should be passing through our doors:

  • 2006: Jackson + Quentin
  • 2007: Drew + Young
  • 2008: Upton

And this is discounting any additional prospects who are perhaps less-eagerly anticipated: Nippert, Montero, Gonzalez, etc, any of whom might turn out to be bigger or brighter lights than the more renowned names. Even if one or two of the above don't quite reach superstar you think Las Vegas is offering odds on Arizona for the NL West in 2008?

To get some kind of context, figured it'd be informative to list the #1 picks of the past 15 years before Upton:

  • 1990 - Chipper Jones, SS, Atlanta Braves
  • 1991 - Brien Taylor, P, New York Yankees
  • 1992 - Phil Nevin, 3B, Houston Astros
  • 1993 - Alex Rodriguez, SS, Seattle Mariners
  • 1994 - Paul Wilson, P, New York Mets
  • 1995 - Darin Erstad, OF, California Angels
  • 1996 - Kris Benson, P, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 1997 - Matt Anderson, P, Detroit Tigers
  • 1998 - Pat Burrell, IF, Philadelphia Phillies
  • 1999 - Josh Hamilton, OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
  • 2000 - Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Florida Marlins
  • 2001 - Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
  • 2002 - Bryan Bullington, P, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 2003 - Delmon Young, RF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
  • 2004 - Matt Bush, SS, San Diego Padres

Hmmm. Somewhat hit and miss there: where is Josh Hamilton? All but permanently suspended for drug abuse, it seems - he has barely played this millennium. And for every A-Rod, there's a Matt Anderson, with 15 career wins in seven seasons, and a 5.19 ERA. Or Paul Wilson (40-58, 4.86 ERA).

But a moment of silence, please for Josh Kroeger, claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies. Our sisters over at The Good Phight look closer at Kroeger than...well, we ever did. Though given he only had 54 major-league at-bats with Arizona (and his hits never reached double figures), that's no great shame.

Kroeger batted .261 in Tucson last year, a big drop-off from the .332 he scored, albeit in only 208 ABs, in 2004. I guess he was deemed expendable by Byrnes, more so than any of the others on the 40-man roster - which now appears to actually contain 40 people, unlike it apparently did earlier in the week! That's perhaps a bit of a surprise, though it says more about our glut in the outfield than any inherent weakness in Kroeger.

I always feel qualms when someone we put on waivers gets snapped up by another club. What if it turns out to be a horrible mis-calculation, and he develops into an All-Star? But it's the price we have to pay, I guess. At least, with Upton only taking a minor-league deal, we don't need to offer anyone else up in the baseball equivalent of a White Elephant sale. Let's just make sure we keep the receipt for Upton, in case we need to return him later. :-)

Otherwise, there's not much to report on the Diamondbacks front - hey, you sign the top pick in the draft, you can't expect more than that in a week. Nice report on the D'backs in the various winter leagues: Cintron, Montero and Edgar Gonzalez. The last named is doing exceptionally well, with a 2.65 ERA in seven starts, though I've not been able to find any peripherals for him to see if they are holding up as well.

Nice to see Cintron doing well too - I still expect him to be traded before Opening Day, though keeping him around to bolster our lineup against left-handed pitching certainly would be a plausible scenario. But if he stays, then who off the projected 25-man roster doesn't? Discuss...