According to a handful of reports this afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks are hoping to trade either Justin Upton or Jason Kubel – or perhaps both – by Friday.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the urgency stems from the fact that Arizona general manager Kevin Towers is headed to Africa for a vacation by the end of the week.
At this point, it looks like Atlanta is the top suitor for Upton and Baltimore is the most likely landing spot for Kubel. It sounds like Arizona would see which team would give them the best return.
Justin Upton has much more upside than Kubel and would command a much higher price. Atlanta, however, has the pitching and shortstop prospects to fit the bill. Upton, 25, is owed $38.5 million over the next three seasons. His older brother, B.J., formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays, recently signed a free agent deal in Atlanta, so this would reunite the brothers.
Justin Upton is a right fielder with a career line of .278, 108 HR and 363 RBI in 2,663 at-bats spread over five full major league seasons. He also played in 43 games as a rookie in 2007. He finished fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2011, hitting .289 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI.
Atlanta would certainly have to sacrifice a top pitching prospect and perhaps its shortstop of the future in Andrelton Simmons, but would lock itself into an Upton-Upton-Jason Heyward outfield for at least the next three seasons. That’s a ton of offense right there and a pretty darn good defensive group to boot.
Arizona would shed some payroll and start getting younger and talented at multiple positions. It looks like a win-win from here, so don’t surprised if this goes down before Friday.
If the Diamondbacks can’t stand to part with Upton, he does have a reasonable salary for three more years, don’t forget, they could opt to flip Jason Kubel instead. Kubel is under contract for $7.5 million in 2013 and he has a $7.5 million team option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout at the end of 2013.
Kubel, a left-handed slugger who had previously played for Minnesota, is probably best used in a platoon role at DH. Lifetime, he’s hit .279 with 113 home runs and 394 RBI against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, he’s at just .238, 21 HR, 125 RBI. He’s a passable corner outfielder, but shouldn’t be playing the field too often.
Baltimore has a need at DH and perhaps in left field, depending on how Nolan Reimold progresses from having surgery on a herniated disc in his neck last summer.
Baltimore wouldn’t have to give up nearly as much for Kubel as Atlanta would for Upton and the Orioles also have the option of buying out Kubel’s 2014 contract should he flop at Camden Yards.
The Mets could certainly use a guy like Justin Upton in the lineup, but they’re probably not very likely to give up a major pitching prospect like Matt Harvey or a Zack Wheeler plus shortstop Wilmer Flores to get him.
Michael Bourn is still out there on the free agent market and the Mets could use him, too, but there’s one big reason why they won’t pull the trigger on a free agent deal. Under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams with top 10 draft picks in the June draft get to keep their picks if they sign a player who rejected a qualifying offer from his previous team. If a team has a protected pick, they’d have to forfeit their next-highest selection.
Bourn did reject the Braves’ qualifying offer. The Mets have pick No. 11 in the upcoming draft.
So not only would the Mets be signing Bourn’s paycheck for future years, they’d be forfeiting a high draft selection. Moneyball disciple Sandy Alderson certainly values a high draft pick like that (player potential, years of inexpensive team control) over what they’d get from Bourn (a player on the wrong side of 30, high cost). Despite some stories today about the Mets having interest in Bourn, I’d be shocked if he winds up in Flushing.
I’d suppose the Mets could swoop in as a mystery team on Kubel…but he’s no better in the outfield than Lucas Duda and we know how that turned out last year.
At this point, it’s looking like the Mets are committed to an outfield of Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Colin Cowgill and Jordanny Valdespin. Scott Hairston remains on the free agent market, so he could come back if he finds no offers elsewhere.
The Mets’ outfield situation: is it a mess? Let me know what you think on Twitter: @THR_Montgomery.