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Updated Jul 12, 2012 - 7:58 pm

Diamondbacks’ present revolves around Justin Upton’s future

It’s time for the second half of the Baseball season to
start. Since the Diamondbacks missed the bell for the
first half, here’s what needs to happen to get things
headed toward the playoffs.

5) The KEEP IT UP Crew

Allow me to introduce the three-man crew. On the mound we
have Mr. Wade Miley. Mr. Kubel handles things in left and
Mr. Hill is the gentleman at second. These three will hit
a skid at some point, but it needs to be fast. Every
player goes through it but the D-backs need these three to
keep their second verse as same as the first.

Anyone who questioned Kevin Towers’ wisdom in spending
money on Kubel was dead wrong. I questioned the signing of
Kubel based on the needs at third base and thought he was
a luxury. I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the
injury to CY and Justin Upton slugging worse than Marco
Scutaro, Kubel is the only constant.

Aaron Hill is trending the way he did at the beginning of
his Toronto career. Add on to that he’s a perfect
teammate, and you have an All-Star-caliber second baseman.

It’s tough to predict what will happen with Miley.
Ninety-seven percent of the time when you count on rookie
pitchers to match solid first halves, you will be
disappointed. The advanced scouting departments focus on
you from opposing teams who are in the playoff race. Holes
are exposed and exploited. Fatigue sets in from throwing
more pressure innings than a rookie ever has. Inexperience
clouds execution. If Miley is in that 3%, Arizona is still
alive.

4) TAKE THE WEAK

The D-backs’ second half starts with 12 of their next 23
games against last place teams. Not just bad teams, but
last place teams. In addition, Arizona finishes the month
with a 10-game homestand. Arizona must dominate July and
take advantage of the weak schedule. The Dodgers’ big lead
to start the season was due to their talent, health and
weak schedule. The Diamondbacks must establish themselves
as contenders in the next two weeks before they leave for
Los Angeles to prove their mettle.

3) PLEASE USE PROTECTION

The Arizona bullpen has been average. It’s not the pen’s
fault
the D-backs aren’t in first place, but they certainly
share the blame. As the rest of baseball looks for bullpen
help this time of year, Arizona doesn’t need it. They just
need David Hernandez to dominate the 8th and J.J. Putz to
be flawless in the 9th. With two rookies in the rotation,
an inconsistent Kennedy, and a questionable Saunders, the
biggest challenge to Kirk Gibson’s managerial career will
be keeping the pen fresh and effective.

2) THE TRUMP CARD

Ian Kennedy has not been the ace of the staff as he was
the last year and a half. He’s shown signs but has not
been a force. The D-backs will not make the playoffs if
Kennedy doesn’t have a Cy Young-like second half. Sure,
his first half makes it impossible for him to be in the
running for a repeat top-five spot in the voting, but the
second half of the season, however, has nothing to do with
the first half. For Kennedy, that was then and this is
now. The D-backs need their ace.

1) IS THE FUTURE HERE?

Far and away, the biggest factor that will determine the
fate of the 2012 Diamondbacks is Justin Upton. If Upton’s
last three games are an indication, everything will be
fine and he can carry the team. If he just got lucky to
shoot some balls through the right side, then the slide
isn’t over. Getting four out of the five components the D-
backs need for a good second half won’t be enough if Upton
continues his 2012 the way it started. Upton must turn it
on now.

The days of looking at Justin Upton as a kid are over.
He’s a six-year veteran of Major League Baseball. He
turns 25 next month. You do not pay $50 million and bat a
player third in the order to get a .273 BA and 37 RBI for
a
below average-to-bad outfielder. Don’t believe anyone who
makes excuses for him. He’s 19th in slugging percentage.
Not 19th in MLB. Not 19th in the NL. His .401 slugging
percentage is 19th among right fielders!
He’s holding his own versus great Cubs slugger David
DeJesus. There are 18 other right fielders in baseball
with better power numbers than Upton.

So what do the Diamondbacks do with him?

Let’s read the tea leaves.

Luis Gonzalez was in studio and gave us 4 points on Upton:

1) Going to the right side with the pitch
2) Not swinging at bad pitches
3) Take your walks and trust Kubel and
Goldschmidt
4) Use your experienced coaches

Gonzo never said Upton wasn’t listening, but just by
saying “use your coaches” can’t we assume Upton isn’t
listening or trusting in the All-Stars and borderline
Hall of Famers on the D-backs bench? Combining those
statements
with the benching of Upton in June, it’s clear the
maturity train still hasn’t pulled into station for
Justin.

The second tea leaf says the owner loves him. We heard
about a long text conversation between D-backs owner Ken
Kendrick and Upton. Owners who just blast players in the
media usually shy away from direct communication. If
Kendrick was having a one-on-one with Upton, it’s clear he
has a deep affinity for him. If Kevin Towers wants to
trade Upton, he’ll have to clear it with the boss.

The third tea leaf has the statements from Kevin Towers on
the Doug and Wolf Show Wednesday. “We do have outfield
depth and it’s no secret we haven’t been getting as much
production from the corner as we would like.” Since Paul
Goldschmidt is at one corner, third base has been a big
letdown. Towers also mentioned the lack of catching depth
in the farm system is a concern. Who is the one player
that could bring in a third baseman, a rookie ball
catching
prospect and be taken from a position of strength? Justin
Upton.

The last tea leaf is the where would Upton go. Previous
reports have said that Upton’s old contract had a limited
no-trade clause protecting Upton from being traded to four
teams. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the old deal blocked
moves to Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland. The
Diamondbacks gave Upton enough money that would have taken
any leverage he had in negotiating a more extensive no-
trade clause. However, the $50 million eliminates his
arbitration years, so Upton would still have enough
leverage to ask for limited protection. So my guess is the
list is still four teams.

Which four teams is a little difficult to guess. No one
wants to be traded to Oakland. It’s a disgusting city.
The future of the A’s is up in the air. The foul ball
territory is massive, so your average can plummet with all
the foul-outs that accrue, so I guess Oakland is still on
the list.

Out of New York and Boston, I bet two of the three teams
are on
the list. Upton’s not a guy who can handle intense media
pressure. Since he can’t handle the fans of Chase Field
booing him, I’m sure he wouldn’t enjoy the scrutiny of the
bright lights. Some players also like to put big teams on
their list so they can negotiate new deals before they
leave, since the players would have the right to block a
move.

There would be no reason to put any of the NL West clubs
on the list, because his agent could assume Arizona
doesn’t want to trade him within the division. Since
Upton’s from Virginia, it’s safe to reason he has no
issues with the mid-Atlantic states or the south in
general.

By process of elimination, I’ll guess Upton can’t be
traded to the Yankees, Red Sox, A’s and Tigers, since
Detroit is not a power hitters’ paradise. The best bet of
the remaining teams that need Upton are the Mets, Rangers,
Marlins, Pirates, Braves, Orioles and maybe the Cardinals.

The team that best matches what the Diamondbacks need in a
trade: Texas. A team that’s desperate to win before their
window closes: Texas. A team that would love to have Josh
Hamilton and Upton in the same outfield: Texas. A team
that has no replacement for Hamilton’s power if he leaves:
Texas. There’s also one team that would love to leverage
an outfielder who’s under contract during the Hamilton
negotiations: Texas.

This is a great position for Kevin Towers. He can jack up
the price for Upton with Texas explaining to them that he
needs the extra pieces to convince his owner. Which is
completely true. If the Upton trade happens, it will come
with serious reservations from Kendrick. If the Upton
trade doesn’t happen, it will re-focus Upton and enlighten
him on just how fed up the organization is.

Justin Upton is no longer a part of the future. He either
must become an immediate part of the present or he his
three weeks away from becoming part of the past.

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