Late Friday night, I tweeted, “Justin Upton could have been perfect for the Athletics. The problem: They’re on his no-trade list.”
Correction: The Athletics were on Upton’s no-trade list. They no longer are, according to sources with knowledge of his contract.
Upton is permitted to block trades to four teams per season, according to the six-year, $51.25 million extension he signed with the D-backs in March 2010.
When the Diamondbacks discussed Upton in trades during the 2010-11 offseason, the four teams he could veto were the Athletics, Royals, Indians and Tigers. But he is permitted to change the list every year.
Three of his four teams are now different, sources said. One of his additions was the Yankees, as first reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney. The identities of the other teams are not known.
So, back to the original premise:
The Athletics might not be as perfect for Upton as I originally thought. But you can bet that their general manager, Billy Beane, will at least explore the possibility with his D-backs counterpart, Kevin Towers.
The D-backs are not certain to move Upton, but they’ve opened the second half by dropping two straight games to the lowly Cubs. They might get a better deal for Upton in the offseason than they would now. Still, the Towers-Beane dynamic is not one to ignore.
The two are among the sport’s boldest decision-makers, and they made a major trade last offseason, with the A’s sending right-hander Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow to the D-backs for right-hander Jarrod Parker, outfielder Colin Cowgill and reliever — and All-Star — Ryan Cook.
The Athletics, thanks in part to that deal, have emerged as a surprise wild-card contender. Their manager, Bob Melvin, was Upton’s first manager in Arizona. And what is the one thing they need most? Offense, which also is the one thing they rarely can buy on the free-agent market.
An outfield of Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick would significantly boost a club that ranks last in the AL in runs per game. And money isn’t as big a problem for the Athletics as you might think.
The A’s reduced their Opening Day payroll from $66.5 million in 2011 to $55.3 million in ’12, and they’ve got only $28 million in commitments for ’13, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Upton’s salary, meanwhile, is $6.75 million this season, $9.75 million next season, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in ’15. Sure, the final two years are steep. But by then, the A’s might be headed to San Jose. And, remember, they could always flip Upton for less expensive players if they got in a bind.
The bigger obstacle here is that the two teams might not be a match — the A’s are deep in starting pitching, and the D-backs’ biggest needs are at shortstop and third base. Then again, if Towers acquired more pitching, he could always work off his surplus to address other needs, perhaps even in a three-team blockbuster.
Will all of this happen? Probably not. But at the very least, it could happen.
If the Diamondbacks want to send Upton to Oakland, he can’t stand in their way.