Upton remains in play, but it's complicated

D-backs in thick of multi-team trade talks involving Upton as winter meetings near conclusion.

NASHVILLE – Kevin Towers may have started a trend when he united Oakland and Florida in the three-team trade Oct. 20 that brought Heath Bell to the Diamondbacks, got cash relief for the Marlins and sent Chris Young to the A’s.
“Multi” is the new normal.
How many trade balls are in the air?
“Right now?” Towers said late Tuesday afternoon.
“Probably more than I have hands. But I have a pretty good feel for it. Some are more likely than others.”
The ball that drew most of the attention and most of the Twitter play on the third day of the winter meetings was a four-team deal said to involve the Diamondbacks, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Texas. The D-backs would lose Justin Upton and a pitching prospect and acquire Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as the major piece, according to reports. The Rangers would acquire Upton and Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields, with the Indians and Rays getting younger players and payroll relief. Cleveland has inquired about Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs, reports said.
Rays general manager Andrew Friedman told Tampa Bay reporters that the Rays are looking at “really exciting” possibilities, but he did not get specific. Neither did Towers.
“I don’t want to get into discussions of trades with teams, how much truth there is to it, how much rumor there is to it," Towers said. "The teams mentioned, we have been having some conversations with them, but I can’t say that what is being reported is totally accurate."

At the same time, nothing seems out of reach. The D-backs are open to moving Upton and one of their pitching prospects, not necessarily Bauer or Skaggs, in a trade “if we were getting right pieces back,” Towers said. Those pieces would seem to include an established starting pitcher.
“In any of those type of deals, we would get major league players" he said. "An Upton deal is not going to be a prospect deal. We’re not a better ball club. It would have to be some key major league pitchers coming back. If that’s out there, we’re fine with Justin and stay with what we have."

Regardless of what happens, the frequency of the multi-team talks is at an all-time high, Towers said.
“Honestly, in all my years, I would say I’ve had more multi-team trade discussions than any time ever. Had very few just direct one-on-one. A team doesn’t have what we are looking for but another team does. There have been at least three teams involved in every discussion I have had. Sometimes four. Sometimes five,” Towers said.
“You think you are close, and you wait on a team, and then one of the four teams goes quiet. So head in another direction and see if there is a fit somewhere else. Gain momentum there, and then wait to hear back on that one. I really don’t know.”
The D-backs do appear to be in a good position. Upton’s contract is so good, three years remaining at $38.5 million, that teams in need of outfielders could offer more as the market thins.
“We don’t have to chase anything right now," Towers said. "Sit for the right deal to present itself. I don’t feel any sense of urgency by any means. If we walk out of here and we don’t end up making a trade, we’re fine. If we come to spring where we are at, we’re OK."

“We’ve addressed a lot of our needs other than starting pitching, but that wouldn’t have to happen in the next day or 24 hours. What I wanted to so was to leave here filling the key holes, which was our bench and our backup catching. We’ve done that.”
Third baseman Eric Chavez, who lives in Paradise Valley, and catcher Wil Nieves signed one-year deals to fill the bench vacancies. Chavez will make $3 million next year, and Nieves will get $800,000. The White Sox reportedly also were interested in Chavez, who played the last two seasons with the New York Yankees.
“I think the park kind of caters to his swing," Towers said. "It’s home for him, and there is something to be said for that. A comfortable environment. He thought it was a good fit.”

Shortstop – currently a three-headed group of Cliff Pennington, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald – has been a target area. The D-backs are no longer interested in Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima after signing Chavez, Towers said.
“We are still looking there. I would say the biggest priority is a starting pitcher,” he said, reiterating that the starter is more likely to come through trade than free agency.

The D-backs have eight infielders and usually carry seven, but Towers said that does not mean a trade is imminent. McDonald seems the most likely to be dealt, after Towers said Bloomquist and Pennington would probably share shortstop in 2013.
“My gut is that (trade) is probably something that will happen in spring training," he said. "It doesn’t hurt to have an extra guy going into spring training. We have a few guys who have had health issues in the past. My history is, people in spring training are always looking for middle infield help."

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