Allow yourself to dream for a moment. Just sit back in your favorite chair, close your eyes and conjure up images of Justin Upton roaming the outfield at Yankee Stadium in pinstripes. That powerful right-handed swing crushing pitches into the left field seats. Think up images of him using his howitzer of an arm to gun down guys at the plate. You are inevitably smiling, maybe salivating at these pictures… WELL, WAKE UP!
Sadly, this is a reality that will not take place and not because Upton can block a potential trade to the Yankees, but because they lack the pieces to get the all-star right fielder. According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Arizona Diamondbacks GM, Kevin Towers, said the team isn’t giving up on the season. Towers said:
“We’re not looking for prospects, we’re still in win mode. We’re certainly not in sell mode at all.”
That should sum up any argument right there, correct? Well, I did say dream a tad, so let’s do just that. First, let’s examine his contract because, we already know what he’s capable on the field, so the Yankees “low” austerity budget will be one potential roadblock. He is owed $6.75M in 2012, $9.75M in 2013, $14.25M in 2014, and $14.5M in 2015. Now your eyes might have popped out at those last two years, but that’s relatively cheap for a power hitting right fielder who will turn age 25 at the end of August. The Yankees current outfielder, Nick Swisher will be looking for upwards to $10-$12M on the open market and he’ll turn age 32 in November. It’s easy to see that Upton is very affordable, given his talent.
Another question is, who will the Yankees give up to get Upton in return? As of right now, the farm is depleted of high-level talent. The cavalry is all still in A-ball. On top of that, Towers iterated he still wanted to field a competitive ball club this year. It’s not like the Yankees have any spring chickens on the major league squad other than the injured Brett Gardner and some pitching. However, do any of Gardner, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, packaged with some low-level A and B prospects, interest the one-time Yankee special assignment scout in Towers? I doubt it.
The saying goes, you have to give something up of value, to get something of value in return. The Diamondbacks and Yankees simply don’t match up. It might be a little different if say Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Gary Sanchez were on the brink of breaking in, but if that were the case, would you give them up for Upton? I would take a known quantity over potential any day.
Just for the sake of letting your mind wonder let’s take a quick look at some of his stats. Upton had major trouble out of the gate, hitting to the tune of .242/.354/.379 in April. He followed that up with a .252/.347/.379 offering in May. All told, he hit five homers over those two months combined. He then put together a good June (.333/.392/.437), but still only recorded two home runs. A deeper look reveals he’s hitting 45.6% of balls in play on the ground, which is nearly 10% more than last season. Obviously, because of that, his flyball rate is down, but strangely his line drive rate is a full 1.5% higher than his career average (19.2%). He’s making solid contact, but he’s not hitting with loft. It’s scary to think that his BABIP is .340, despite hitting only .273/.353/.401, but it’s likely due to his increase in line drives. What people seem to forget is, he’s just 24, so he’s still working out the kinks. Although defensive metrics are still not an exact science, he ranks favorably in most of them, so the Yanks wouldn’t lose much plopping him in right field and letting him have at it.
I’m betting that most Yankees fans would absolutely take a former MVP candidate, who is cost-controlled, and so young. Imagine what Kevin Long could do with that swing! However, you’re going to have to clean up your drool because the Yankees and Diamondbacks just don’t fit together on this trade. Hey, dare to dream! At least that’s free.