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SnakePit Round Table: Justin Upton Trade Edition

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"Anyone heard any good trade rumors lately?" So said Justin Upton on his Twitter feed earlier this month. Obviously, he was referring, tongue-in-cheek, to the rumors swirling around our young right-fielder, which have been the buzz of not just Arizona, but the major-leagues for much of November. Particularly since Kishi was bemoaning the lack of such a chance only yesterday, it seems like a natural topic for our round-table to cover this week... Let's start with:

What do you think are the odds of Upton being traded, and why?

IHSB: 5% or less. Nobody is going to cough up a package that is going to make it a safe trade for us to make. And you don’t make a risky trade with someone who has the unlimited ceiling that Justin Upton has.

Zephon: 10% or less. It would take a lot to move him, and i just don’t see the right package of prospects appearing.

soco: 0%.

Sprankton: And why, soco? AND WHY? Anyway, it’s 0% with a chance of -5%. Towers wants the world in return and I just can’t imagine any team giving it to him.

Kishi: About 1%, and that is basically if another team’s GM goes insane and makes an offer that Towers would be mad to turn down.

Azreous: I’m going to go a little higher and say 20 percent. The chances are extremely low, yes, but I have these visions where trading Justin Upton is one of the cornerstone moves that reduces strikeouts and gets more contact hitters in the lineup. And by visions, I mean nightmares.

soco: I don’t explain myself to anyone, Sprankton.

Wailord: Very, very small, but I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely impossible. There’s always idiot GMs in the world, and it only takes one to make a ridiculously-lopsided offer. I don’t think it’ll happen, as KT needs to be blown away, but I wouldn’t go out and say it’s not happening.

Jim: I’d say around 20% too. I don’t think it’s likely, but if Towers gets the right sort of offer, he will have no hesitation in pulling the trigger. Upton is certainly a rare kind of player to see on the trade market, and as Wailord said, it only takes one club to be dazzled by his potential and make an offer that’s just too good to be refused.

DbacksSkins: 10%. I just don’t think any team will pony up the kind of talent for which KT is asking. It’d take a 3 team deal, most likely.

emily: Slim to none. Hopefully on the none end of that spectrum.

Playing devil’s advocate if necessary, why should Kevin Towers want to trade Upton?

IHSB: If the labrum tear is considered something that will hamper Upton’s long-term value. That is the only real reason. Otherwise you don’t "want" to trade Upton, and only consider it if you’re blown away.Zephon: Questions about his health is my best guess.

soco: If some team wanted to give us the world, why not?

Sprankton: I don’t think health should be too much of a concern, otherwise there wouldn’t be 15 teams trying to get a piece of the action. Like soco said, it’s worth a shot to see what kind of offers are being proposed.

Azreous: Because he looks like he doesn’t care. Because he doesn’t get his uniform dirty. Because he can’t wear his hat straight. Because he strikes out too much. Because he’s black.

Oh, I’m sorry, I mistook "Kevin Towers" for "AZCentral.com dumbasses."

soco: At Boston Globe’s site someone basically made the same comment as Azreous.

Wailord: I assume saying "if he gets an incredible offer" is too much of a cop-out, so I’ll use the other cop-out and say "what Dan said."

Jim: The strikeouts, and a BABIP that seems flukishly-lucky, could seem to suggest Upton’s ceiling is lower than we would like to think. [Reggie Jackson has the highest K% of any player in Cooperstown at 22.8%; Upton is at 25.9%] Health issues - four years in, he has never played 140 games in a season. His power doesn’t seem to have developed since he arrived in the big leagues.

DbacksSkins: Strikeouts have increased across the league, though, and the HOF represents a lag behind what’s common today. League average in the NL this season was 19.3%, whereas in 1990, it was 15.1%. In 1970 and 1950, it was 15.2% and 10.5%, respectively. That having been said, KT hates Ks, and that’s certainly one of Upton’s weak points. There’s also the injury history, although admittedly, the team hasn’t exactly rushed him back to play in recent years. They weren’t competing this year, so they shut him down early. However, I think it has more to do with holes and money. Having that much money and WAR invested in a RF, when we have multiple WAR holes, might be unwise for a mid-market team.

emily: Long term questions about health, and maybe it’s Towers’ way of really showing he wants to cut back on strike outs. Good Lord, I hope it’s not that, though.

Do you think it says anything about the franchise’s long-term direction?

IHSB: I think, trying to look at it from a positive point of view, that it demonstrates that Kevin Towers is willing to try anything and everything, and to be as creative as one can be, in order to make this team better in his eyes.

soco: It might be him just exploring all options, but it also could be that he wants to shake things up now since he only has 2 years to show what he’s got. That’s not really time for him to rebuild the system in his own image. I worry that he would gamble the future for a longshot at competing next year, though.

Sprankton: What they said.

Azreous: It basically just reaffirms Towers’ image as a "gunslinger." He’s both candid and a little too revealing of his thought process at times. But then again, when your team struggles as mightily as Arizona did last year, no one is untouchable.

Wailord: I believe it reflects on Towers more than anything. Even if he’s just blowing smoke and has absolutely no intention of trading Justin, he’s making it known that he’s been handed the key to the team and he’s not afraid to go ahead and completely change everything we know to be true about the Snakes... and I think that’s a good thing.

Jim: It’s Towers making a statement that no-one is untouchable, and as such, separating himself from the Josh Byrnes era, under whom Upton was the cornerstone of the franchise. It may also be bumping the players out of their comfort zone: if Upton can be seen as a trade candidate, anyone can be. What we get back in a trade could indicate where Towers genuinely thinks we can compete.

DbacksSkins: It says that this is definitely now Kevin Towers’ team.

emily: What everyone else said.

What would you want to get in exchange for Upton?

IHSB: I think the better question would be what wouldn’t I want to get in exchange for Upton. I do only think there are so many teams who can make a package work. And I can hardly blame KT for wanting a prospect who is both a) awesome and b) advanced. That means guys like Hellickson/Jennings (TB), Montero (NYY), Ackley/Pineda (SEA), Teheran/Freeman/Minor (ATL), Stanton/Morrison (FLA), like five different guys in the KC system (I don’t really care much on these guys if they weren’t at Triple-A), Brown (PHI - though they have like nothing else to move), Sale (CHW), and Gibson (MIN). Then they also need one or two (depending on quality) controllable, solid talents already in the big leagues, another prospect of lesser caliber, and a cheap relief pitcher or two (again depending on quality) they’re willing to part with.

Sprankton: Buttloads. I don’t know enough about other farm systems to list names like IHSB did, but I can say that I want to poop my pants if a trade were to happen. Seriously, I want to see a bunch of names, look them up, be amazed, and then poop my pants.

Azreous: I feel like you shouldn’t want to do that. Anyway, it has to be a package with at least one talented, major-league-ready player and a boatload of other players. A reasonably priced veteran, a throw-in reliever, and maybe two other prospects. Anything less would be uncivilized.

Jim: I’d be expecting four or five players. A replacement outfielder, a starting pitcher and a reliever, all more or less, ready for the majors, plus perhaps a couple of prospects is what I’d be hoping for. But it’s about quality as much as quantity: I don’t want this to become a Curt Schilling-esque trade, where we get a bucket of turds (and Brandon Lyon).

DbacksSkins: Um... I’d be looking to get T. Moon, OF and T. Stars, P. But seriously, like Sprankton said, I’m less familiar with prospects than guys like IHSB or Zephon, so I’d better have heard of like 4 out of the 5 guys we get back, otherwise, we’ve been had.

emily: The entirety of the NYY roster. Paid for.

Who are the most likely trading partners?

IHSB: Tampa, Seattle, and Atlanta. I’m not buying the Jays as a partner, in spite of the depth.

Sprankton: Based on all the rumors I’ve seen I’m going with the: Royals, Marlins, Orioles, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Red Sox, in no particular order.

Azreous: Surprisingly, the Yankees aren’t one of them. You’d think this was the perfect deal for them in seasons past, but with Jeter, Rivera and Lee in play, there’s no chance. And several teams don’t have the right pieces to make a deal. So I’d say the Mariners, Royals and maybe Athletics.

Jim: Now that it seems the Mariners are not on J-Up’s no-trade list, the Mariners seem to be a distinct possibility, with the Red Sox the other leading contender. I think Towers is inclined to trade Upton out of the National League entirely.

DbacksSkins: Red Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Blue Jays. Royals, maybe, as part of a multi-team deal, but Upton can’t be traded to them.

emily: Tampa or Seattle.

Now, put the case for keeping Upton...

Jim: No-one taking this one? Guess I should... Upton was one of the best major-league players of his age last season. And, everyone including Justin would tell you, that was a disappointing season. He’s the kind of player around whom the team should be building a team going forward, not one to be traded away for lesser parts.

Wailord: Everyone else glossed over it, so I figured I missed the memo or something. Whoops. Anyway, the case for keeping him is pretty simple: he has the potential to be one of those guys that only comes around ever so often. Although it may be a flawed analogy, it’d be like having Albert Pujols at the beginning of his career - could you trade him and get a boatload in return? Of course. But you don’t trade Albert Pujols with a career like that in front of him, because it’s an opportunity that rarely comes around.

soco: The silence speaks volumes. My case for keeping him is: a) he’s been pretty good b) I like him c) it’ll annoy Rockies fans d) we had enough problems filling the left field position last season so now we want to struggle to fill two outfield positions for who knows how long?

DbacksSkins: He’s signed until 2016 for relatively cheap. Even if he never performs better than his 2010 season, he’s technically still underpaid, but I think 2010 was his floor. Even if 2009 is his ceiling, and he performs somewhere in between, that’s still a fantastic deal for the team. But almost all experts agree that his ceiling is still something higher than that. If/when we CAN compete again, he has the rare blend of OBP, power, and speed to be the cornerstone of our offense, and statistically, he’s already one of the best OF defenders in the league.

Guys like that don’t come around very often, and midmarket teams like the Dbacks don’t usually have a chance to get them signed that long for that little.

emily: I like him, and it’ll annoy my coworker who thinks Upton is one of the worst number one picks ever. (But he’s a Royals fan, so he isn’t allowed to talk about baseball. That team hasn’t been good since before I was born)

The Arizona fanbase seems divided in their opinion of Justin. What impact do you think a trade might have on them?

IHSB: I think with a new regime in place, it would just give the overall impression that nothing about what was done in the time Josh Byrnes was our GM is still sacred. So anybody who liked some of JB’s moves (like me) are going to be a little peeved, but as long as Towers doesn’t get a fast one pulled on him, we’ll try to see the reasoning.

soco: I think it would solidify the general vibe I get from the Diamondbacks fanbase, outside of the Snakepit, really, that the Josh Byrnes was one big mistake. To move Upton and/or Reynolds, two cornerstone players that Byrnes signed to long-term deals, would just be the proof some people would need to completely write off the Byrnes era.

Otherwise, I think people that have their opinion on Upton won’t be swayed one way or another anytime soon.

Azreous: Exactly. Most fans in the internet age are set in their views in one way or another -- almost to the point of stubbornness. Whether Upton is moved or not, those opinions won’t change just because he’s shopped/dealt.

Kishi: Likely it would annoy the people who like him, and vindicate the people who hate him. Which is another reason I’m against trading him. Because I don’t want those jackwagons feeling vindicated.

Jim: It’s odd how the fanbase is so radically divided over Upton, probably more so than any other player on the roster. I can’t imagine Braves fans being split over Jason Heyward, or any Giants fans claiming Buster Posey is a "fraud." I can’t see anything which will close the gap: if he is traded, half will be delighted, and half not (or, at least, the opinion of half will depend on the return). If he is not traded, it’ll be more or less the same.

soco: His first season isn’t really comparable to either Heyward or Posey. Both of those guys were the front runners for Rookie of the Year, so any fan not supporting them would seem insane to larger fanbase. He lost out to Ryan Braun, another homer happy, strikeout prone outfielder. The difference is that Braun has the RoY and 3 All-Star appearance. Fair or not, but these guys have put up reasons to love them immediately, whereas Upton is a bit of a harder nut to crack.

Jim: I think if he hadn’t blown his eligibility by 10 at-bats in 2007, his 2008 would have seen him get RotY votes. Upton was an All-Star and got MVP votes last season; really, what more do fans want from someone barely old enough to drink?

DbacksSkins: It’ll make all the dumb fans happy, and the smart fans frustrated. /generalized, bitches!

soco: I thought RoY eligibility was 130 AB, which he had in 2007? It seems ridiculous to us, but those sort of normative awards can help perception. As far as the average fan is concerned, Upton hasn’t done anything yet.

emily: It won’t change any opinions on him. Worst case, all we’ll hear about is how everyone is glad he’s gone. Best case, some team will completely over-pay for him, and then everyone will be happy.

Any other thoughts?

soco: While doing my holiday shopping and wish-making, I can’t help but think, geez, the Diamondbacks have awful merch. I think part of that stems from having less than stellar logos/branding, but even the stuff you think couldn’t be screwed up are. So thank you, Diamondbacks, for keeping me on budget and forcing me to not spend money on you.

Oh, did you mean other thoughts on Upton? Um. Two hands?

DbacksSkins: Why the Hell do regular fans hate you, Justin?? I don’t get it.

soco: What do you mean by "regular" fans?

DbacksSkins: You know, the dumb ones. The ones who post on AZCentral.com. The ones who demanded that we re-sign Eric Byrnes and chastise Upton for actually, y’know, running and waiting UNDER the ball, rather than diving for it.

soco: I’m not going to open the can of worms now, but (if you’re listening, Jim) it might be interesting Roundtable about what represents a fan or not, what qualities are desired or not. Our view, as Diamondbacks obsessives, can’t really be applied to everyone else, can it?

DbacksSkins: I suspect that it has less to do with Diamondbacks fans than fans in general -- perhaps, because we have a young franchise, we’ve got more "oldskool" fans who roll their eyes at stats and such, and are also used to bigger market teams and the things they can do in their FOs. So there may be a dichotomy between different fans of the Dbacks, and it may be larger than with some other teams, but not necessarily a Dbacks-only thing.

soco: I’m not sure I buy that logic. We can’t say for years that "oldskool" fans don’t watch the Diamondbacks and only follow their old teams (like the Cubs), and then say that our young fanbase is oldskool fans. But! I’ll leave it at that since, well, this really has nothing to do with Upton.

DbacksSkins: Indeed, and Jim is likely to delete all of this, anyway.

emily: Two hands, dammit.

Azreous: At this point, I think Upton would have to catch with three hands just to make some people happy.

Yes or no: will Upton be on Arizona’s roster for Opening Day 2011?

IHSB: Yes.

Zephon: Yes.

soco: He’ll be on the first bus to Reno. /azbombers

Sprankton: Mos’ def.

Azreous: And batting third.

Kishi: Wait, we’re trading Upton for Mos Def? That doesn’t seem like a good idea at all... (Yes.)

Wailord: Sí, señor. /deported

DbacksSkins: PAPERS!!

Jim: At this point, I expect so. But I think I am now braced for significant chance on the team over this winter, in one form or another.

DbacksSkins: No.... SYKE!! Yes.

emily: Yes. Unless he’s not. Then no. And if it’s no, we better have a damned good reason for it.