The major league baseball hot stove has begun simmering, and while some teams have already completed blockbuster deals (here’s looking at you, Miami and Toronto), the Arizona Diamondbacks continue to weigh their options as they look to construct their 2013 roster.
When word leaked that General Manager Kevin Towers was once again listening to offers for right fielder Justin Upton at last week’s annual general manager meetings, was anyone surprised? I wasn’t. It’s time for him and the D-backs to go their separate ways.
Team management has continually denied a desire to move Upton and have said on many occasions they’d be surprised if he was traded. Yet, here we are in the midst of another offseason and Upton’s name is, for the third time, the focal point of hot stove chatter.
The Diamondbacks can say it is team protocol to “listen” on every player, but, if I am Upton, I would be peeved. If they keep me, I can’t imagine I would be a happy right fielder reporting to camp, and an unhappy Upton could likely be a similar version to the 2012 version or worse.
In 2012, Upton hit .280 with just 17 home runs and 67 RBI. He was hampered by a thumb injury throughout the season, which could have attributed to the significant drop in power from his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011.
If the D-backs were unhappy with Upton’s production, attitude and clubhouse presence last season, can you even fathom the kind of disaster they’ll have on their hands if they bring back the 25-year-old right fielder after he’s endured a winter of hearing his name dragged through the mud and linked to numerous suitors? There is likely to be irreparable damage and discord between the D-backs front office and Upton.
Most athletes of Upton’s caliber expect their organization to build around them, stroke their ego and give them a public vote of confidence. Whether right or wrong, the D-backs have not treated Upton like a franchise player. Instead, he’s been treated as if he’s one of the problems.
Upton is now painfully aware that he’s not wanted in Arizona. It doesn’t matter who or how many people want him gone. The fact is someone does and that’s enough to sabotage the relationship between player and team.
Don’t forget the fact the D-backs moved Upton’s close friend Chris Young this winter, and don’t disregard the effect it may have had on the team’s decision to re-open discussions on Upton. Team brass seem to be doing everything in their power to change the culture and face of this team, which I personally applaud them for after a disappointing and underwhelming 2012 campaign.
I think Upton will go on to have a very successful and possibly still star-studded career, but it won’t be in Arizona. Let’s face it, as long as Upton’s a D-back, he’ll be part of trade rumors. He’s trade bait and that won’t change. How can anyone be expected to fulfill their potential with that cloud of uncertainty and feeling of unwantedness hanging over their head? He will benefit from a change of scenery, but if he stays in the Valley, fans and the club alike can expect to be let down by Upton.
The D-backs have to end this song and dance with Justin Upton, and the sooner the better for all parties involved.