The Diamondbacks could trade Justin Upton today if they wanted. Their inaction has nothing to do with lack of interest from the market. It’s the return that’s lacking.
The D-backs have said they would need to be bowled over: A deal that includes a top-of-the-rotation starter and an elite shortstop or third baseman, all of whom are controllable for at least as long as the three years remaining on Upton’s contract, would be a start.
No team has ponied up yet, and the D-backs are getting the sense that no one will.
“I don’t see anything happening with Justin,” D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick said Thursday.
“If we were looking to trade Justin, there is a significant market for him. He is very valued,” Kendrick said. But at this point, “those things do not seem remotely possible.”
So it appears safe to pencil Upton into the D-backs lineup for the rest of the season, with free agents-to-be Stephen Drew and possibly Joe Saunders the most likely trade candidates by the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Other pieces such as Ryan Roberts could be involved. Takashi Saito has thrown two scoreless innings in the Arizona League, and if he is ready for the stretch drive, the D-backs could juggle their bullpen, too.
Detroit, Boston and Pittsburgh have shown interest in Drew, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported earlier today. Drew is hitting .192 since returning him his fractured ankle June 27, but he made six straight starts before taking Thursday off, which could allay any health fears from potential trade partners. It is safe to say, with a $10 million mutual option for 2013 that includes a $1.35 million buyout, that Drew will play elsewhere next season, and the D-backs would like some return before he goes away.
“Stephen Drew’s situation is problematic,” Kendrick said. “Third base is problematic. Pitching is always something that you would look into.
“You wouldn’t trade for a catcher. You wouldn’t trade for a first baseman. You wouldn’t trade for a second baseman. You wouldn’t trade for an outfielder. You don’t have much left.”
Even if Upton is not involved, the D-backs are likely to make a move or two at the deadline, Kendrick said, although the magnitude might be determined by the standings. The D-backs are seven games behind San Francisco in the NL West and 5 ½ games back in the race for the second wild card. The closer they are in the race, the less likely it is that Saunders would be traded.
“Kevin (Towers, general manager) is very adept at looking at any team and seeing how he can make it better. I would expect he would come forward with some things that he believes will help the team,” Kendrick said.
“What happens between now and the end of the month will dictate what happens.”
Pittsburgh has been mentioned prominently as a suitor for Upton, but Kendrick pooh-poohed that notion.
“That’s absolutely ludicrous,” Kendrick said. “There is no doubt Justin would make their club better. But when I look at it, there wouldn’t be anything close to a fit on our side.”
The Pirates have not discussed including third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, sources with knowledge of the talks said. Outfielder Starling Marte is considered the Pirates’ top position-player prospect, but the D-backs already have a glut of outfielders, including a top prospect of their own in Triple-A Reno outfielder Adam Eaton.
“Why would you trade for an outfielder if you are the Arizona Diamondbacks?” Kendrick said.
Upton has an affordable $38.5 million remaining on a contract that takes him through 2015, and while some recent reports said the D-backs will make a conscious effort to move him in the offseason, a team source flatly said Thursday that is “not true.” At the same time, Towers is always willing to listen, which might have ginned up the trade rumors this time.
Kendrick bristled when he read one recent report that said Upton is not a winner. He also said he talked to Upton after calling him “an enigma,” which is not a pejorative term, although some seemed to read it that way.
“The fact of the matter is, he’s a player I really like,” Kendrick said. “He gets it. He understands it. He and I are good with it.
“It was very disappointing to see what was written about Justin. They have no idea of his work ethic. We have won with Justin. I think we won our division since 2007, and he was an integral part of both teams.
“I’m not thrilled about Justin Upton playing for anybody but the Diamondbacks, and I don’t think Kevin is, either.”