Seattle remains interested in Upton, willing to package top prospects for immediate upgrade.
By JACK MAGRUDERFS Arizona
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Seattle was one of the suitors when Justin Upton was available at the 2010 winter meetings, and it appears the Mariners’ interest has not waned.
The Diamondbacks and Mariners met Monday night, sources with knowledge of the D-backs said, with Upton the major piece in discussion.
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has made it clear that ace right-hander Felix Hernandez is not on the market, but everyone else in a deep Mariners system could be available.
With shortstop on their mind, the D-backs appear to be interested in former No. 1 draft pick Nick Franklin as a piece of a multiplayer return package. The Mariners have some quality minor league pitching prospects in Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, but that also is a strength of the D-backs’ system.
The D-backs also have had plenty of dialogue regarding left fielder Jason Kubel, who is attractive to teams looking for outfielders because of his offensive production and his team-friendly contract. Kubel had 30 home runs and 90 RBI in his first season with the D-backs in 2012, and he is owed only $7.5 million in 2013. He also has a $7.5 team million option with a $1 million buyout for 2014. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said at his postseason briefing that the D-backs would like to get more athletic, and moving Kubel would free Gerardo Parra to be the everyday left fielder.
Zduriencik told the Seattle media on Monday that he would trade prospects if it meant upgrading the major league roster. The Mariners also have been involved in conversations with free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, according to FOXSports.com.
"If you can look at a scenario where you take a weakness and make it a strength, that's something you have to entertain," Zduriencik said. "I don't have a desire to trade these guys. I'd be tickled pink to continue this plan and let them all become big leaguers for us and see what they're going to be. But you can't shut the door on an opportunity to improve your club for the short term and the long term.”
Franklin, who played in the Arizona Fall League this winter, was a 2009 first-round pick out of high school whose career has been stunted by unusual circumstances. He missed time in 2011 with a concussion after a teammate’s bat struck him during batting practice, and he later contracted mononucleosis. He has above-average power for a middle infielder, scouts say, and hit seven homers in 64 games at Tacoma last season, his first stint in Triple-A.
Walker was a sandwich pick in 2010 and played in the 2102 Futures Game. He was 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA last year while pitching in Double A as a 19-year-old. Hultzen was the second player taken in the 2011 draft, one pick before Trevor Bauer. He was 9-7 with a 3.05 ERA while splitting time between Double A and Triple A.