OK, so this may be the longest of long shots, but it’s also one of the most intriguing in terms of potential trade targets for the Rangers. While Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin and David Murphy are all doing a pretty good job of holding down the third spot in the Rangers outfield with Josh and Nellie, B.J.’s little brother is attractive in more ways than one…
Justin Irvin Upton
If Justin Upton is truly on the trading block, he is by far the most talented offensive player available. The Diamondbacks, after making the playoffs in 2011, are a sub-.500 team this year (44-47) and sitting 7 games back in the NL West of the division leading Giants (and 7 games back in the Wild Card race). Not too far back to make a second half run, which Upton would have to play a key role in, if it were to happen.
Upton is a 24 year-old 2-time NL All-Star who finished 4th in the NL MVP voting in 2011. He was the first pick in the 2004 MLB Draft and made his debut in Arizona at the age of 19 in 2007.
Upton has played right field exclusively since coming up to the big leagues, but some speculate that he could play CF or LF effectively.
Upton isn’t having his best season, after strong campaigns over the last four years. This simply makes it seem even more far-fetched that the D’Backs would consider moving the young star, as it’s definitely not an opportunity to “sell high”.
Upton is also under contract through 2015, which from the Rangers perspective, could serve as an insurance policy against losing Josh Hamilton in free agency after the season. If Hamilton is resigned by the Rangers, it would facilitate his permanent move to LF if Upton could play CF. Upton’s contract pays him $6.75M this season and $9.75M, $14.25M, $14.5M over the next three seasons.
So, a young talented player with a limitless ceiling with proven success at the major league level…locked up through 2015…not currently playing up to his full potential…for a team that isn’t completely out of the playoff race in the National League.
Why would Arizona deal him? While he may not be performing up to his potential so far this season, he’s young and talented enough that it’s not a huge knock on his value. Sure, the D’Backs wouldn’t be selling him at his true “high”, but there is no question of his long-term value. Arizona is a team built to contend, and Upton’s age and potential play right into that.
All that said, the D’Backs know the market is better suited for sellers right now. With the revisions to the Playoffs this year (additional Wild Card team), there are more buyers at the trade deadline than ever before. Sure Upton is young and talented, but if Arizona could exchange him for a slew of young and talented players that fit the current and future needs of his teams…he’d do it.
“I don’t know whether we’ll trade Justin or not,” Arizona General Manager Kevin Towers said. “We’ll have to see if the right deal presents itself. We’re in the information-gathering business. The information we get now may be useful this winter. We’ll find out what teams have interest in him.”
If 2008 through 2011 is a true indication of the potential of Justin Upton, there is no doubt that the sky is the limit for this kid. Keep in mind that he is only 24 this season (turns 25 in late August), so his best years should still be ahead of him.
Looking at similar players, Adams Jones, Jay Bruce and our very own Nelson Cruz make the list. Historically, the most similar player in terms of production through the age of 24 is Ruben Sierra…doesn’t it feel like it was meant to be?
Upton’s current WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a weak 1.1…again, you can’t put too much value on his performance so far this season given his age and what we have seen over the previous 3-4 years. His WAR in 2011 was 5.7, good for 6th in the National League.
Upton’s name is scattered all over the leader boards for offensive performance in 2011 – WAR, Slugging %, Runs, Total Bases, Doubles, Home Runs, Runs Created, etc.
Could Justin be a Ranger?
OK, I’m officially excited about the thought of this guy in a Rangers uniform through 2015. That said, I view this as the longest of long shots.
Does a trade for Upton fill a need? Yes, while the offense is already strong (outside of recent performance), Upton provides another dynamic threat to the line-up and provides an everyday OF for the Rangers (Hamilton-Upton-Cruz).
Does dealing for Upton fill the team’s top need? That’s debatable, but my thought is if you have an opportunity to get a player of this caliber for a price that you deem fair, you pull the trigger.
As far as what Arizona would require in return for Upton…the price tag is going to be higher than that of say Cole Hamels or another other player who is eligible for free agency after the season. Again, Upton is locked up through 2015. I think it will require a group of top level prospects (2-4 of them) along with a current major league player (if only to provide the Arizona fans with something new for this season).
So, what is the “right deal”? You know Jon Daniels has a different idea from Kevin Towers as to what the “right deal” is. Hence, the reason this deal more than likely won’t happen.
If you consider Jurickson Profar to be untouchable, the deal would more than likely center around Mike Olt and Martin Perez (or a pitching prospect of similar value), and could include a 1-2 more minor league players from a notch or two below these two…possibly someone like a Julio Borbon.
So, would you (yes, you) make that move? Olt and Perez represent a big part of what is considered the future (near future is more like it) of this team. The difference with a deal like this, as opposed to Cole Hamels or a soon-to-be free agent, is Justin Upton would also be considered the future of this team…as well as be more impactful this season.
If JD could find a way to make this deal happen while not dealing away Profar and Olt, I’d be on board. I like Perez, but we have good pitching depth at the Major League level as well as down on the farm. I’m sure the Rangers will do their due diligence and see what’s here, but a deal for Upton just seems unlikely…but it’s fun to ponder.
Regardless of what happens, this type of deal, whether the Rangers are the D’Backs’ trading partner or not, would likely occur at the 11th hour. Should be fun to watch!
The Rangers showed some signs of life yesterday, as they avoided the sweep in Anaheim and beat the Angels, 7-3. After a painful loss on Saturday night, Ron Washington called a team meeting in an attempt to get the derailed Ranger team back on track.
“It was something teams that aren’t doing the right things do,” Washington said. “It had to change.”
With Sunday’s win, the Rangers hold the Angels at a deficit of 4 1/2 games. While this isn’t what many Rangers fans were hoping for going into the weekend series, there is now a feeling of content with having at least salvaged one win given the poor execution and mental mistakes from games 1 and 2 of the series. Hopefully what we saw yesterday was the reemergence of “Rangers baseball”.
“We were happy with the way we played,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “It was just one game, but there were some things we want to make adjusments on and we did a pretty good job.”
Elvis Andrus, who had a mental lapse to be outdone by no other on Saturday felt that the focus was better on Sunday.
“Our focus today was at a whole different level than the last few days,” said Andrus. “Yesterday’s talk opened everybody’s eyes.”
Hat’s off to Wash for realizing it was time to close the doors and get this team re-focused. Should this meeting have happened prior to the first two losses in Anaheim? Perhaps, but time will tell if the timing was right.
Not going to rehash yesterday’s game blow-by-blow, but has Nellie’s home run landed yet?
Ride the Scooter
Scott Feldman takes the mound for the Rangers tonight in Oakland as he attempts to showcase his abilities as a starter a few more times before the arrival of Roy Oswalt. Feldman, who is 0-3 with a 4.61 ERA in his last three starts, needs to prove that he is more than just a long-reliever. While he is extremely valuable to this team in that role, the Rangers need to know what they have as far as starting rotation insurance and with his name already floating around out there as trade bait, it’d be nice to see him increase his value with a few solid outings.
Getting beyond the 5th inning is a good place to start. The 5th inning has proven to be fateful for Scooter in his last 3 trips to the mound, giving up 8 runs in that stretch.
“I know I can pitch more than five innings,” Feldman said. “I know it’s happened three times in a row, but I’ve been working on a starter’s program between starts, and hopefully the third time is the charm. I can go deep in a ballgame and give the bullpen a break.”
Oakland will counter with Jarrod Parker (1-2, 2.88 ERA), who despite some good performances recently, hasn’t picked up a win since May 1st in Boston.
Rangers Uber-Prospect, Jurickson Profar, had his run of games reaching base ended at 50 yesterday.
Mike Olt continues to demolish minor league pitching as he homered twice yesterday for the third consecutive game.
Vote for Josh Hamilton to be the “Mane Man of the Month” here.
Be sure to check out our most recent podcast. Jasen and I discuss the current state of the Rangers, get into the impact of the Roy Oswalt signing and propose a fun activity for the upcoming Field Trip.
The Baseball Do Forum’s are up and running. Get signed up and get involved. This is your chance to get your point across with more than 140 characters.
We recorded our 2012 Season Preview podcast last night and will have it up on the site later today.
Bold Prediction #2 – Elvis Andrus will be the starting short-stop for the 2012 American League All-Star team.
This builds on yesterday’s prediction of Ian Kinsler winning the 2012 AL MVP. As I wrote yesterday, I think one of the keys for Kinsler is going to be the improvement of Andrus’ offensive performance in 2012 which would help provide Kinsler with more line-up protection – aka, can’t pitch around Kinsler if Elvis is hitting the ball well. Elvis worked to build his upper body and core strength during the off-season and that, along with his experience, athleticism and advancing maturity and discipline a the plate are going to make him a threat in the 2-hole for the Rangers all season.
The best part about this prediction is that my fellow Rangers fans can help me make it come true by voting for Elvis when the voting commences this season. No doubt the Yankees and Indians fans will vote in droves to try to get their short stop the starting role, but Elvis will prevail…and it won’t be because Rangers fans have stuffed the ballot boxes because Elvis is simply a Ranger. It will be because Elvis has deserved and proven he is the top player at his position.
Nolan Ryan spoke with media yesterday before the Rangers and the AAA Round Rock Express played. Ryan addressed a number of hot topics including the Angels, Josh Hamilton and Yu Darvish.
“The Angels have stepped up and helped themselves,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be a tough division for us. They are very competitive, and it will come down to who stays healthiest. They have real strong pitching, so we know we have our work cut out for us. It should make it interesting. It should make it a good rivalry. I’m looking forward to it. I still think we have the best ballclub.”
When asked if the Rangers-Angels rivalry compares to the Red Sox-Yankees, Ryan said “Are we the West Coast version of it? I don’t know. I don’t think a lot about it. Obviously, the fact that we’ve won the division the last two years and they felt like they had a lock on that. [Angels owner] Arte [Moreno] stepped up and tried to do something about it. It will be good for our division and baseball, and it’s going to stimulate more interest, obviously, with Pujols and C.J. over there.”
“[Center field is] where he wants to be,” Ryan said about Josh Hamilton. “It’s where he is happiest. It’s where his focus is. He’ll be fine there.”
“He has a good feel for pitching,” Ryan said about Yu Darvish. “He tried to make some adjustments. Each start he had he worked on things. I saw improvement. I thought that was a positive. We don’t have any numbers we’re putting with him. We think he’ll pitch in the rotation and he should pitch a lot of innings. I think he’s at the point in his career where he’s accustomed to throwing 200-plus innings. Somewhere in that neighborhood, I think, would be the expectations.”
Josh Hamilton hit his first homer of the Spring yesterday against Round Rock, blasting a 426 foot 2-run 3rd inning home run to center field.
Derek Holland started the game and threw 78 pitches, giving up a 2-run home run to Yangervis Solarte. Holland felt good after the start, despite the long ball.
“I’m ready to go for sure, despite the home runs,” Holland said. “I thought everything was good. I left a couple of pitches up for strikes. That’s part of getting ready for the season.”
Matt Harrison pitches tonight at the Ballpark against Mexico City, 7:05pm first pitch.
The Rangers have rounded out their roster, sending Julio Borbon to AAA to start the season. Alberto Gonzalez, Brandon Snyder and Craig Gentry all secured the final bench spots on the team. Snyder gives the team a lot of flexibility as the 3rd catcher, 3rd baseman and corner outfielder.
Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar will be starting for the Frisco Rough Riders to start the season. Maybe the next Field Trip will be to Frisco to see these two budding stars.