Not that I've actually ever watched Downton Abbey. This surprises some people, who seem to think it's a requirement for my being British, much like adoring the Royal Family. The latter applies particularly to Mrs. Snakepit-in-law. I made the mistake, in the early stages, of feigning polite interest in Camilla and Charles, and now, every time I see her, she updates me on the latest shenanigans there. But Downton never grabbed me somehow. I loved the UK period dramas I grew up with, e.g. Clarissa, The Woman in White, The Dark Angel, but prefer the more melodramatic ones to the polite soap that appears to be Abbey. So don't expect any familiarity with it here.
We start this week's episode in New York, where the Mets appear to be the team with more interest - the Yankees, in what is probably symptomatic of a sea-change in franchise philosophy, do not appear to have the cash [mostly because they are paying $278 million to Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira over the next four years.] After the collapse of the Seattle deal. word was that the Mets would resume trade talks for Justin Upton. But there were doubts as to whether they would have enough to match the Seattle offer, much though their outfield needs the help, because top-tier arms Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have been considered "untouchable."
A person familiar with their thinking said Upton "fits the bill." But the source reiterated that the Mets likely won't part with enough prospects to acquire Upton -- the same stumbling block that squashed trade talks earlier this offseason... One rival executive believes the Mets should explore dangling infielder Wilmer Flores, who some talent evaluators believe ultimately will play third base or first base. With the Mets, Flores and his promising bat likely would be blocked by David Wright and Ike Davis.
Flores isn't perhaps regarded as being as good a prospect as, say, Mike Olt - in the MLB.com rankings at the start of last year, Olt was the fourth-best prospect at third (#43 overall), with Flores at ninth, and outside the top 100. However, in his recent rankings, John Sickels, had them both as B+ prospects, saying, "I am impressed with the progress he made last year developing his power, and he's still just 21. There are still significant questions about his defense and how his bat will fit into a lineup, but progress is progress. However, Jon Heyman Tweeted that, with Wheeler off the board, the "sides don't see a fit for [a] Justin Upton trade at this point."
Speaking of Olt, some still think that Texas remain the most likely trading partner for Kevin Towers.
The Diamondbacks like Mike Olt, and presumably, if there's an Upton deal with Texas arranged, he'd be a guy Arizona would want.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 12, 2013
Olney discussed this a bit further in the ensuing discussion, pointing out that the team's needs have changed since the Bauer trade, and the Olt would just be one piece of the trade. But his "educated guess" is that Upton will be a Texas Ranger by the start of the season. "At this point," he says, "I don't think the D-Backs have a lot of choice, because the relationship with the player is so damaged." That's not an opinion necessarily shared by Fox Sports Arizona's Jack Magruder, in a piece that's rather more thoughtful and restrained than some of the reporting we've seen of late::
"Discussions surrounding players such as Upton are not unusual. They go on regularly because quality, affordable players...always are a buyer’s first inclination. Do not ask and you will not be told. The Upton talks are not messy. They are just public. Exploration is part of a general manager’s job, and in this case it makes a lot of sense. A savvy team deals from excess. The fact that Upton’s name has surfaced several times in the last two years speaks more to a potential trading partner’s desire for a big bat than to any perception that the D-backs are hungry to deal him. They could have traded him by now if that were the case."
But even Magruder says, "However talks play out moving forward, it seems hard to imagine Upton patrolling right field for the D-backs in the season opener on April Fool’s Day." Though one further point that may play into this was made by Olney on his ESPN blog [insider only] - the likelihood that Giancarlo Stanton and David Price, young players likely valued more highly than Upton, will hit the market in the next season. "The Rangers and other teams will consider this question: If they trade some of their better prospects for Upton now, would that undercut their chances of getting Price and Stanton later?"
A surprising name resurfaced of late, courtesy of ESPN Chicago, which said
"The Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks recently discussed the feasibility of a trade that would have sent right fielder Justin Upton to the Cubs, according to two major league sources. According to both sources, the Diamondbacks asked for two-time All-Star Starlin Castro in return for Upton. The Cubs, trying to build a solid base of young players in their somewhat depleted system, balked at trading a 22-year-old shortstop for a 25-year-old right fielder and cut off talks."
This is unexpected in a couple of ways. Firstly, we've already got our shortstop of the moment, in Cliff Pennington, and also our shortstop of the future, in Didi Gregorius [speaking of which, check out the glowing report on Didi linked by GuruB a day or two ago: "If he plays as projected, obtaining Gregorius will make great sense. Shortstops like Gregorius just don't come along very often."] So, if this was as "recently" as claimed, why would we additionally be interested in Castro? Additionally, the Cubs are, like the Mariners (as well as the Red Sox and Blue Jays), on Upton's no-trade list. We saw exactly how well that worked out with Seattle.
It doesn't appear that the price for Upton has dropped, however. CBSSports.com talked briefly to Towers at the Scouts Foundation dinner, and he said, "I'm not taking less. I'm in no hurry". He also re-iterated that ownership were "fine" with the team retaining all their outfielders if no acceptable trade comes forth; that would presumably mean an outfield of Jason Kubel, Cody Ross and Upton, with Gerardo Parra as the fourth outfielder, and Adam Eaton starting the season up in Reno.
Still, there's time left for more exciting twists and turns: will there be a cliffhanger ending? Tune in next week for another enthralling episode! Well, unless Upton gets traded by then, in which case this will be the shortest running series since that ill-advised reboot of Charlie's Angels...