Want to know why Justin Upton still might get traded?
• The Arizona Diamondbacks have a surplus of outfielders after signing Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million free-agent contract.
• At least three teams — the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves — have expressed strong interest in Upton, according to major-league sources.
• Jason Kubel, the other outfielder whom the D-backs could move, is under club control for only one more season, and carries less trade value than Upton.
The Diamondbacks, though, continue to send mixed signals about their intentions. Some in the industry say that the club prefers to trade Kubel. Others, however, insist that the team wants to move Upton.
The Mariners, in particular, are eager — some say desperate — to add a hitter. They have checked in on all of the big bats, from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Andre Ethier to the Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, sources say. They also have had dialogue with Scott Boras, the representative for free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn, but seemingly would prefer to add a slugger.
Upton is perhaps the Mariners’ most realistic pursuit, according to one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking. The Mariners have had “on-and-off” discussions with the D-Backs the entire offseason, sources said.
Earlier this winter, the Diamondbacks did not consider the Mariners a match — the M’s are deep in young pitching, and that area also is one of the D-Backs’ strengths. But the D-Backs, who since have traded right-hander Trevor Bauer, might be more receptive to a pitching-heavy return now.
The problem: The Mariners are on Upton’s four-team no-trade list — and Upton, who is building a home in Arizona, is not inclined to approve a deal to Seattle, sources say.
Upton, 25, is under contract for $38.5 million over the next three seasons. The Mariners could offer him an extension as an enticement to waive his no-trade rights, if the teams agreed upon a deal.
Then again, Upton simply might prefer to go to Atlanta, where he could join his brother, center fielder B.J. Upton, or Texas, where he would join a club that has made three straight playoff appearances. Other teams, perhaps the New York Yankees, also could be interested.
The Braves “made strong overtures” for Upton earlier in the offseason, one source said, but came away thinking that the Diamondbacks were not motivated to move him.
The Rangers thought they were close to a trade for Upton at the winter meetings, but remain unwilling to meet the Diamondbacks’ price of either shortstop Elvis Andrus or shortstop Jurickson Profar. The team, sources say, would prefer to structure a deal around third baseman Mike Olt.
The D-backs still could keep both Kubel and Upton, playing them in right and left field, respectively. Ross then would play mostly in center, Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton would be the extra outfielders and A.J. Pollock would return to the minors.
Such an alignment would require the D-Backs to open the season with approximately a $95 million payroll, according to the Arizona Republic — a jump from $74.2 million last Opening Day after the team’s average attendance increased by less than 1,000, going from 25,992 in 2011 to 26,884 in ’12.
The other problem with keeping all of the outfielders is that general manager Kevin Towers is a huge proponent of Eaton’s, and that many of the Diamondbacks’ players believe that Parra deserves to play more.
Upton, for his part, indicated Thursday that he is weary of being the subject of trade talk for the third time in two years.
“Appreciate the support,” Upton told fans in a tweet from an apparent tropical location. “This is the view from my hotel room. Going to enjoy it and not worry about this trade nonsense.”