Desperation serves Diamondbacks poorly in Justin Upton trade
Consider this my resignation from the Kevin Towers fan club.
Back in December, when the Diamondbacks made the Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius trade, I wrote it would be premature to judge the deal. After all, I thought, perhaps Towers and the D-backs know something we don’t and landed a player he believes has Derek Jeter-like qualities.
Of course, I wrote that piece with one caveat.
The general manager was able to land the shortstop he coveted without having to part with right fielder Justin Upton.
That would have been a real bad move.
Needless to say, I consider this to be a bad move. Admittedly, none of us know how the prospects Arizona landed will turn out. In time, the package of Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill and Brandon Drury may be the impetus for great things in Arizona.
But this is a risk that didn’t have to be taken.
In trading Upton, the D-backs finally gave up on a player who at one point was expected to carry the franchise into the future. His 5+ Major League seasons have been filled with as much inconsistency as highlights, but it’s obvious the talent and potential are there.
And at 25, Upton is just now about to enter his prime and he’s signed to a very reasonable contract, too. There seemed to be no concrete reason to trade him, except for the fact that the Diamondbacks had to trade him.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Upton “secretly wanted out of Arizona as much as the Diamondbacks wanted to trade him.”
Who can blame the guy?
Upton’s name has been in trade rumors for the better part of the last three years. While every professional athlete needs to understand how the business works, at some point it just gets to be ridiculous. The D-backs reached that point at least a year ago.
The Diamondbacks became privately disenchanted with Upton last season. They questioned whether he would ever live up to his hype, believing he would be a solid major-league player but not a superstar. They were troubled by his wild inconsistencies and strikeout rate, believing he grossly underachieved when he batted .280 with 17 homers and 67 RBI in 2012. Only a year earlier he finished fourth in the NL MVP voting, hitting .289 with 31 homers and 88 RBI, leading the Diamondbacks to the NL West title.
Indeed, Upton was a disappointment last season. Expected to contend for the NL MVP, the right fielder instead regressed to “regular ballplayer” status. Of course, that could largely be attributed to a thumb injury he suffered early in the season, and it’s worth noting he hit .298 with nine home runs and 23 RBI over the season’s final two months.
It’s amazing what being healthy can do for a player.
But alas, the Diamondbacks saw it fit to finally part with the former top pick, in large part because they simply had too many outfielders on the rosters. In what could only be described as a numbers game, someone had to go.
Of course, had the D-backs not signed Jason Kubel last season and Cody Ross this season that would not have been the case, but I digress.
The Diamondbacks backed themselves into a corner on this one, and when Upton rejected a trade to the Mariners — as was his right — the organization became angry, according to Nightengale.
For what it’s worth, that deal didn’t seem so bad. But Towers’ desire to move Upton led to a complete loss of leverage, which then led to the deal that was consummated Thursday morning. As Nightengale wrote, the D-backs had run out of options and were forced to make a trade that wasn’t good enough before, but was apparently palatable now.
The Diamondbacks and Braves also discussed Upton in December, but the talks went nowhere when the Braves would not trade shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Yet, with nowhere to turn, and the Diamondbacks having already acquired young shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds in a three-way deal in December, they were willing to accept the Braves’ package of prospects.
It’s reminiscent of the opening season in the movie Major League II, when former player Roger Dorn bought the team from hated owner Rachel Phelps.
Harry Doyle: Rachel’s gone now, thank God, having sold the team to retired Indian third baseman Roger Dorn, after a long, hard fought series of negotiations.
[flashback to negotiations]
Roger Dorn: Mmmight be willing to go as high as a hundred.
Rachel Phelps: 120.
Roger Dorn: 120? Rachel, you just started at 110!
Rachel Phelps: 130!
Roger Dorn: Rachel, this isn’t fair!
Rachel Phelps: 140!
Roger Dorn: [desperately begging] 130!
Rachel Phelps: 150!
Roger Dorn: [immediately gives in] We’ll take it!
Rachel Phelps: Oooh, you’re good Dorn.
Desperation is not one’s friend when it comes to negotiations.
As far as offseasons go, Kevin Towers has had what could only be described as a shaky one. While it would be unfair (and silly) to judge a deal until the players involved actually play some games, it’s difficult to be excited and on board with what he’s done with the roster.
But for the GM’s sake — and that of the D-backs and their fans — here’s hoping the returns on his trades are better than the reviews.