Sep. 14, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton (10) during the game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the Asking Price, is Justin Upton Worth It?

Last week, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton invoked his no-trade clause in order to stop a trade to the Seattle Mariners. The Diamondbacks would have received SS/2B Nick Franklin, RHP Charlie Furbush, RHP Stephen Pryor and RHP Taijuan Walker in return. To put that in perspective, that would have been there #1 prospect (Walker), their #4 (Franklin) and #15 (Pryor), along with a fringy young reliever (Furbush). That is a hefty price for a player of Upton’s caliber, but is he worth it?

Upton would be a nice addition, but the Yankees don’t match up well at all (Image: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

If the Yankees were to propose a similar trade, it would most likely need to include Manny Banuelos (who’s out due to injury for the entire 2013 season), Gary Sanchez (but since he’s a catcher, the D’Backs probably don’t need him), one of a Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, and David Phelps or Adam Warren. Basically, mortgaging the farm for a young all-star caliber right fielder.

It’s true, it’s not often a player like Upton becomes available, he’s a career .278/.357/.475 hitter in his seven years in Arizona. At only age 25, he still has many miles left and could be a valuable asset to the Yankees for years to come, especially a team starved for younger players. We have talked about Upton at length here at YGY, but we haven’t really known who the Diamondbacks were looking for in return. Now we do, and it appears to be too much even if the Yankees had the manpower. But, then again, the two teams don’t match up all that well either.

In order to obtain Upton it’ll take two pitchers with good-to-great upside who are nearly MLB-ready, also a middle infielder who is almost ready for the show, as well as some bullpen arms. The Yankees simply don’t have the young pitching to even compare to the plethora of other clubs who are pursuing him. Dellin Betances took a huge step back and put his prospect status in question, while the aforementioned Manny Banuelos is on the shelf this year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Not only are the prospects too much, but Justin Upton is owed $9.75 million in 2013, but that figure jumps up to $14.25 in 2014 and $14.5 in 2015. His salary directly impacts the self-imposed salary cap the Yankees are pursuing and they’ll need to dump some salary if they decide to go after his services. Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi opined that trading Curtis Granderson would provide salary relief and a spot in the outfield for Upton.

While the Yankees have a full complement of starting outfielders – Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki – they could clear a spot for Upton by trading Granderson, who will become a free agent after the 2013 season. (Granderson will earn $13 million this year, compared to $9.75 million for Upton.)

Seems simple in theory, but would be tough to get any value. Put yourself in another team’s shoes, would you give up anything of value for Granderson knowing he’s gone next year AND the Yankees are trying to dump him? The Yankees would have little leverage. While Granderson has had his struggles at the plate, the guy still mashed 40+ home runs in each of the past two years, but you wouldn’t get a prospects haul from another team knowing he’s not cheap and he’ll only be there for one year. The trade-off isn’t favorable to the Yankees whatsoever.

The writing is on the wall, Upton will most likely get traded at some point during this offseason or at the trade deadline in July. He’s an all-star caliber outfielder who hits right-handed, which is exactly what the Yankees want. Only problem is, most other teams want him too and the Yankees do not match up all that well with regards to prospects and Arizona’s needs. Time to move on, Yankees fans, time to move on.

Stats and contract figures courtesy of FanGraphs and Cot’s Baseball Contracts, respectively

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  • Carlos Collazo

    Yeah I don’t really think the Yanks have a shot at landing Upton. Still think (and hope) that if he gets traded it will be to Atlanta.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      In my humble opinion, he won’t be wearing pinstripes this year. I think he’ll either land with the Rangers, or as you think, the Braves. Curious, who would the Braves need to give up in order to pick him up? Would Teheran, Delgado and Gilmartin be among them?

      • Carlos Collazo

        One of Teheran/Delgado, Nick Ahmed, one of J.R. Graham/Zeke Spruill/Gilmartin, and a reliever probably. Either Venters/Avilan/EOF.

  • geecee8

    Yanks wont deal Williams. Heathcott could be in that deal

    Wont deal Phelps…..

    Banuelos might not be a guy AZ wants

    Warren, Heathcott, is a start……but 2 nice pieces need to be added….

    Yanks havent drafted great recently….tough trade to mold

    • Jimmy Kraft

      Completely agree. The framework has been set, the Yankees just don’t have the men to make a deal. It really boils down to that.

      I think many teams are balking at Heathcott because of injury concerns and would want something a little more guaranteed. I don’t blame AZ for asking for the moon, they don’t have to trade him at all.

      I’m curious as to why you think Phelps won’t be dealt?

      • geecee8

        Just thought Phelps turned a corner last year…..and is a nice later round (14) pick that makes up a little for failed (missed) higher picks. Seems to me Dave is a good rotation candidate right now. Across the board minor league figures very solid and he was able to swim last year in MLB when asked.

  • Peter Venkman

    Hey Jimmy, it doesn’t matter if Upton’s contract jumps up to 14.25 million. Luxury tax is based on AAV (Average Annual Value) and Upton’s AAV is 8.33 million – which is a steal considering the Yankees gave Ichiro a contract with an AAV of 6.5 million. It blows my mind how many sportswriters and commentators don’t understand this.

    What also blows my mind – people saying the Yankees should/need to trade Granderson in order to get under the 189 million salary cap. Psssst….the salary cap target is for 2014 – and this 2013. Granderson isn’t under contract in 2014.

    Why trade away Granderson (40 homers) when you’ve already let Swish go (20+ homers) and Martin (20 homers)? If they did that, they’d might want to consider dropping the whole “Bombers” mantra.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      Peter, thank you for informing me on the AAV, I definitely need to look into that a bit more. If I may ask, where are you getting that number? Thanks for the heads up.

      Yeah, I’m not sure about the whole Grandy thing. I’m definitely not in the camp of trading Granderson for exactly the reasons you listed. I think many people believe his contract represents a huge reason why the Yankees aren’t going out and getting players. It’s next to impossible to replace a 40+ HR bat, especially with somebody younger. People who are spreading those rumors are doing it just for the sake of spreading rumors.

      Thanks for the comment and I hope we see you around more often!

      • Peter Venkman


        In 2010 Upton signed a six y ear, 51.25 million dollar deal. 51.25 / 6 = 8.54 million AAV. Sorry, I said 8.33 in my earlier post – that was a mistake. So in terms of Luxury tax, no matter how the contract breaks down, every year of Upton’s contract counts as 8.54 million.

        I think the MLB does it this way to prevent say, a team like the Yankees from signing a star player to a contract that pays him league minimum in 2014 (to get under the luxury tax) and then back-loads the difference the following years.

        My idea would be for the Yankees to resign Robinson Cano to a 1 year league minimum deal in 2014 – with an 8 year / $200 million player option. Problem, luxury tax?

  • feztonio

    It stinks the the steinbrenner kids areusing salary luxury tax as an excuse to pocket ridiulous amounts of profits each uear going forward. Theyre no better than all the other teams who rather keep their profits than spend to get better. Whays nezt hal… claiming the yankees are a small market team?