Will D-backs' outfield depth bring winter deal?
SEP 13, 2012 2:28p ET
If newcomer Adam Eaton finishes as strongly as he has started since entering the lineup on Sept. 4, the D-backs will finish the year with five legitimate starting outfielders. That's one too many moving forward, and that logjam almost certainly signals a trade this winter.
This is not lost on veterans Chris Young and Justin Upton.
"Common sense would say that you won’t enter spring training with five starting outfielders. I don’t see that happening," said Young, a center fielder. "Whatever would happen, I have no idea. That’s not really my place to even try to figure that part out. I have no idea how I fit into that equation."
Added Upton, the starting right fielder: "They have to make a decision. Obviously, you can’t carry five outfielders.
"I think it (a trade) is a very good possibility. I don’t know what they are thinking. I am just worried about finishing out this season strong."
For the D-backs right now, it's all about the present. Four games out of the second NL wild-card berth with 19 games to play, the team — from general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson on down — is looking no further than the weekend series against the NL West-leading Giants that begins Friday.
It is a time to focus, not reconfigure for the future.
When the offseason arrives, the D-backs will address the issue of how to deal with their remarkable depth in the outfield. Upton and Young have been All-Stars, left fielder Jason Kubel has a career-high 29 home runs and leads the NL with 12 outfield assists in his first season for Arizona, Gerardo Parra won a Gold Glove in left field in 2011 and top prospect Eaton’s leadoff-man skill set has translated to the bigs, albeit in a small sample size.
Trading from strength to address perceived weakness is a common practice, and the D-backs scouted shortstops and third basemen at midseason before acquiring Chris Johnson from the Astros at the trade deadline.
Upton’s name comes up frequently in trade discussions, and while managing partner Ken Kendrick said Upton would not be traded at the July 31 deadline, talks certainly will pick up again in the offseason.
The D-backs placed Upton, Young and most of their other players on waivers after the July 31 deadline, a routine procedure. Sometimes it is a vehicle for a trade, like the one the Dodgers pulled off to get Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, et al. from the fading Red Sox. More often, it is used to gauge interest because the team knows exactly which other teams put in a claim on a player.
Young’s season has been sabotaged by injuries, the first when he ran into a wall in April after hitting five home runs in his first 11 games. He has missed the past seven games with a quadriceps strain, and Eaton has hit leadoff and played center field in every game since. Scouts consider Eaton a true center fielder, like Young. While Parra has played center, he is believed to be a better fit at one of the corner spots.
Eaton, who earned his Sept. 4 promotion by hitting .375 with 47 doubles and 44 stolen bases in the minor this season, also wonders what the future will hold. He is the type of leadoff hitter the D-backs really have never had, a guy who can work counts and use his speed to beat out infield hits and steal bases, a guy who can help manufacture a run as an alternative to relying on the home run.
"I'd like to say no, but it’s hard not to" look ahead, Eaton said. "The September call-up is almost like a tryout, just kind of see what I can demonstrate in tools. As much as I don’t want to, I definitely think about spring training next year and where I’ll be and how I’ll compete. Hopefully come in and try to win a job. You want to think that way. You’re here. You don’t want to go back down. You want to stay up here as long as possible.
"This has been a dream come true for me."
The bottom line will be a factor in any trade decision, especially for the small-market D-backs, who spent a little more than they originally budgeted this season to make a run at a second straight division title but have seen no appreciable bump in attendance from their entertaining 2011 run.
Upton is owed $38.5 million through 2015, with a manageable $9.5 million due in 2013. Young is set to make $8.5 million next year and has an $11.5 million team option with a $1.5 million buyout for 2014. Kubel’s two-year deal signed last winter will pay him $7.5 million next year, and the D-backs have a $7.5 million option with a $1 million buyout for 2014. Parra has three years of arbitration remaining, and the D-backs control Eaton for the next six years.
Upton and Young probably would bring the most return, but they also would leave the biggest holes. Upton, who finished fourth in NL MVP voting with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs in 2011, is having a down year by his standards, but he still is tied for third in the NL with 88 runs scored. The D-backs and Red Sox talked trade before 2011, and Upton’s name has been dropped by the Boston media now that the roster has been turned over and money is available.
"2013 ain’t here yet," Upton said. "I can’t worry about that. I haven’t even thought about it."
Young has spent his entire major league career with the D-backs after being acquired by Josh Byrnes from the White Sox in the Javier Vazquez deal in December 2005.
"I feel like I’ve been part of some really good teams here. I feel like I’ve been a part of helping those teams as well," Young said. "But the way the game works, it is a very special thing if you are able to play with the same team your entire career. Only a few guys in baseball have been able to do that."
"You are talking about guys like Chipper Jones. ( Derek) Jeter. Since you have so few guys who have done it, you humble yourself and realize it is not very likely. Not saying it can’t happen, but it’s not very likely.
"Sometimes things happen that are out of your control. You just have to be able to be a professional about it and be prepared for everything."
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