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