Are M’s in the running for Justin Upton?
Nov 19, 2010, 3:40 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:52 pm
By Michael Simeona, MyNorthwest.com intern
Are the Mariners looking to trade for baseball’s next young superstar?
According to multiple reports, the Arizona Diamondbacks are putting 23-year-old superstar outfielder Justin Upton on the trading block, and the Mariners have expressed preliminary interest.
The first overall pick in the 2005 draft, Upton is widely considered to be one of the best young superstars in the game today. The younger brother of Rays’ outfielder B.J. Upton, Justin made his professional debut in 2007, and earned his first All-Star selection in 2009.
The Diamondbacks lost 97 games last season, and recently hired Kevin Towers – formerly of the San Diego Padres – to become their new general manager in September. While some may consider it a risk to trade away a franchise player in Upton, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic thinks the Diamondbacks may need to do just that in order to contend next season.
“They see this as a chance, if they can trade up and get three, four pieces back – at least three that can help the 2011 team – then that makes them better,” said Piecoro.
The Mariners are all too familiar with trading away multiple prospects for a cornerstone player. In 2008, former general manager Bill Bavasi traded away five prospects – including future All-Stars Adam Jones and George Sherrill – for pitcher Erik Bedard, who has been plagued by multiple injuries throughout his tenure in Seattle.
So who will it take for the Mariners to acquire Upton?
“If I’m the Diamondbacks and talking to the Mariners, I would start with (Justin) Smoak, (Michael) Pineda, (or) maybe (Dustin) Ackley,” Piecoro said. “If they (Arizona) don’t get the right offer they’re not going to make the deal, but they’re very much preparing themselves to make a deal.
“I think the Diamondbacks are really going to have to win to make this trade happen.”
Although the Mariners may have to give up a lot of prospects to acquire the stud right fielder, Mike Salk seems to think it would be worth it.
“You’re getting back a number one overall pick from a few years ago who is just 23,” said Salk. “He’s something you need. He fits at Safeco (Field), he could play left field or center field in a big ballpark like this.”
Before the start of the 2010 season, Upton signed a six-year, $51.25 million contract with Arizona in hopes of becoming the cornerstone of the franchise for the majority of the upcoming decade. But Upton had a disappointing 2010 campaign where he struck out 152 times in 495 at bats, “helping” set a major league record for team strikeouts in a single season with 1,403.
“If he can cut down on the strikeouts, I think that’s really the one thing keeping him from being a superstar,” Piecoro said.
Scouts have compared Upton to former Mariner greats Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, in having the potential to become a cornerstone to build around for the future.
Should a rebuilding Mariners franchise take a chance on a potential superstar?
“I don’t know if there’s anybody in the game that has the same toolset that he has in terms of ridiculously quick hands – just tremendous bat speed,” Piecoro said about Upton’s ability. “The physical ability, the size, the strength, the speed, the arm.
“He’s pretty much got it all.”
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