An offseason mired by a $189 million budget and a desolate free agent pool, at least in terms of what the Yankees need, has the team looking for other ways to fill in gaps. A righthanded bat is the top priority, according to GM Brian Cashman and once again Arizona Diamondbacks OF Justin Upton‘s name has appeared.
In a recent story from both Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, they opine that Upton might be traded because of the surplus of outfielders in Arizona. The team just signed Cody Ross to a three-year deal worth $26 million to play with the likes of Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel, and the aforementioned, Upton. Obviously, the Yankees aren’t the only team looking into a possible deal, as many as four other teams are in on Upton as well.
Upton, 25, is under contract for $38.5 million over the next three seasons. The Mariners could offer him an extension as an enticement to waive his no-trade rights, if the teams agreed upon a deal.
Then again, Upton simply might prefer to go to Atlanta, where he could join his brother, center fielder B.J. Upton, or Texas, where he would join a club that has made three straight playoff appearances. Other teams, perhaps the New York Yankees, also could be interested.
Upton provides much more trade value than Kubel, whose name has also hit the rumor pipeline. While Kubel would be more obtainable, Upton is definitely the bigger fish, and one the Yankees will most likely explore more earnestly. The one positive in the Yankees favor over all other clubs vying for Upton’s services is that Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was an assistant to Cashman just a few years ago, so he knows most of the prospects within the Yankees system.
Currently, Upton is in the third year of a six-year, $50 million contract in which the earliest he could file for free agency is 2016. He’ll make $9.7M in 2013, but will jump up to $14.2 and $14.5 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The former #1 draft pick in 2006 has hit .278/.357/.475 over his six-year career and at only age 25, he has yet to hit his prime.
Furthermore, he fits the mold the Yankees are looking for to replace Nick Swisher‘s power numbers and also give the Yankees a young right hand bat to balance out the lineup. Upton had a down year in 2012, but it was 2011 where he flashed some serious muscle, recording a .240 ISO on his way to a .289/.369/.529 (139 wRC+) campaign. That year he also hit 31 home runs and drove in 88 runs. Overall, he is a career .278/.357/.475 (116 wRC+) hitter.
With the current state the Yankees farm system is in, it will be difficult for them to obtain a player like Upton. However, Towers knows the Yankees system so maybe he feels more comfortable taking risks on players he’s actually seen rather than prospects he’s only heard or read about.