You can counter the title question with, “They’re not desperate; they’re just listening and trying to maximize an asset,” or some other line of sludge. But they sure sound desperate to deal him to me.
Since he took the job as Diamondbacks’ GM after the 2010 season, Kevin Towers has tossed Justin Upton’s name around as a negotiable commodity. That the Diamondbacks are so willing to trade a soon-to-be-25-year-old who has the talent to win an MVP is truly baffling. He’s also signed through 2015 with $38.5 million owed to him from 2013 onward.
Team managing general partner Ken Kendrick was publicly unhappy with both Upton and Stephen Drew earlier this season so this might not be coming from Towers, but he’s the front man and he’s the one making Upton available, so he’s the one to look at when asking the obvious question: Why?
The shift from willing to maybe to increasingly definite is curious. So curious that it would give me pause.
Before making a substantial bid for him and offer what Towers is going to want—figure on starting pitching, either a blue chip shortstop or third baseman, and possibly an outfield bat—I’d want to know why they’re moving him and I’d want a real answer. Then I’d ask around behind the scenes if there’s anything the Diamondbacks are hiding such as a worrisome physical problem or off-field issues.
In the spring, before they signed him to a team-friendly contract extension, the Pirates had put it out there that they’d listen to offers for Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is one of perhaps 3-4 players in baseball for whom I’d surrender upwards of 5 players to get. In fact, if I was starting an organization, I’d select him over Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Giancarlo Stanton. He’s a foundational player that an organization builds around. The Pirates signed him, he’s staying in Pittsburgh and he’s blossomed into an MVP candidate.
I don’t consider Upton to be that type of player. He’s just below that group on the next tier. With the Diamondbacks acting as if they have to get rid of him, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on under the surface. I’d ask the question of Towers during negotiations and if I didn’t like the answers, I’d regretfully decline to make any deal and move along.