Many of you are aware of that the Rays may be in the market to replace one Upton with the other. An acquisition of this caliber could give Rays some badly needed offense in the middle of their lineup, which is a plus. Overall, making a trade to Arizona for Justin Upton does seem intriguing, however the question stands; is this even feasible? Let’s see.
First off, OF Justin Upton is a career .335 BABIP/.278 BA/.357 OBP/.475 SLG/.832 OPS/.359 wOBA hitter, who’s averaged 18 homers and 61 RBI per season in his six seasons in the majors. Upton’s offensive production isn’t dissimilar to BJ, though with a lower strikeout percentage (22.9% vs 25.1%) and a higher OBP, Justin gets on base at a greater clip. Also like his older brother, Justin presents a threat on the base paths which is a plus. Defensively speaking, though he isn’t as dynamic of an outfielder as BJ, with a 9.6 UZR, a .916 RZR, and a .967 FP, Justin could be a good addition in the outfield. I’d imagine he’d get the opportunity to see a good amount of playing time with a lefty on the mound, and Maddon pinching Matt Joyce from the lineup. But, where do you put Upton, traditionally a right-fielder, when Joyce is in the lineup? Do you move Desmond Jennings to center, Joyce to left, and put Upton in right?
Another caveat, he’s slated to make $9.75 MM in 2013, $14.25 MM in 2014, and $14.5 MM in 2015, and well…that’s a sizeable chunk of change. Buster Olney seems to think that Tampa Bay could make it work. “The Rays could make that work, but it would mean dedicating roughly 20% of their payroll to one player,” Olney noted in a recent piece on his blog. There’s also the question of what Arizona would expect in return.
The Diamondbacks are in the market for a young short-stop, though I doubt that they’d be satisfied with only receiving Rays über prospect, Hak-Ju Lee. They’re seeking something that the Rays seem to have a plethora of, starting pitching. As Marc Topkin put it, “As much as it might pain them — especially with the AL East looking quite winnable — to trade James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson, in a free agent market that thins quickly after Zack Greinke, and in which Anibal Sanchez is seeking $90 million over six years, they should certainly have the opportunity to get the big bat(s) they need.”
I just don’t see the Rays being able to afford Upton in 2014 and 2015. Hedging starting pitching for what could be considered a one season rent-a-player just doesn’t seem like a wise move. Then again, many feel that the Rays chose to exercise James Shields contract option because his trade equity is high, and they stand to get a lot for him in return.