As Ken Rosenthal reported today, while the Diamondbacks are listening to offers for right fielder Justin Upton, they’ll need to be “blown away” in order to trade him. Perhaps, I’m being a bit naïve, but isn’t that the case for pretty much every player? Seriously. If I was the GM of a baseball team, every player would be on the table at all times. Does that mean I would trade them? Not necessarily. But I would leave the option open because every player has a finite value. If you can exceed that value by trading for other players, you have to go for it. My point is that Towers shouldn’t have to say Upton is on the table, it should be understood. By saying it publically, Towers is indicating that he’s looking to make a trade.
This leads me to my next point. Why are the Diamondbacks openly advertising Justin Upton? At 23, Upton is one of the most talented players in baseball. Sure, he took a small step backwards in 2010, but that doesn’t mean doesn’t have superstar potential. Upton has tremendous power potential, plays above average defense at a corner outfield position, has good speed, and gets on base at a good clip. We’re talking about a perennial .300/.400/.500 guy once he hits his prime. I can even see a few 30/30 seasons in his future if he can develop his base stealing skills a little more. Adding a little more intrigue to the situation, Upton is signed to a team friendly deal through 2015. With as much talent as Upton possesses, he’ll probably provide two or three times the amount of on field value when it’s compared to his salary.
Hardball Talk’s Aaron Gleeman had this to say about the performance of players Upton’s age:
“…very few hitters in baseball history have been as productive as Upton through age 22.
In fact, here’s the complete list of all the players in the past 50 years to get at least 1,500 appearances through age 22 and post a higher OPS than Upton: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Boog Powell, Cesar Cedeno.
That’s it. That’s the whole list.”
That’s a pretty impressive list. A-Rod and Griffey are on their way to the Hall of Fame. Cabrera isn’t that far behind, provided he can keep up his current pace. After fast starts by Powell and Cedeno, their careers faded once they hit the mid-point in their career. Still, they were All-Star quality players in their prime. As for Tony C, well his career was side-tracked by a bean ball to the eye. He was never the same after that. You can neither prepare nor account for freak injuries like Conigliaro’s.
While Upton’s current pace isn’t a guarantee of how his career will turn out, it definitely shows he’s in some pretty elite company. Just based on his performance, age, and contract, he appears to be the type of player you’d want to build around, not trade away. Athletes like Upton with superstar potential don’t come along very often.
Update: The Red Sox have reportedly asked about Upton. As a Red Sox fan, he's one of the few players, for whom I'd consider emptying the farm system.