As the baseball winter meetings concluded, two potential blockbusters involving Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton were in play, according to a major league source.
The first involved three teams — Arizona, Texas and Tampa Bay — with Upton going to Texas. The other involved Seattle as the fourth team.
The Rangers’ fervent push for Upton was fueling both potential deals and might be an indication of the team’s confidence in landing free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke, who also is being pursued by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, no deal was close on Thursday afternoon, with an official from one of the clubs saying, “It’s not dead. It never has been. But it doesn’t have more legs than it did two weeks ago.”
The arrival of Upton, 25, likely would lead to the departure of free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, who likely will be too expensive for the Rangers to keep if they sign Greinke.
The Rangers want to add one top hitter and one top starting pitcher, preferably one through free agency, the other through a trade, sources say.
And the Seattle Mariners, who met with Hamilton, his wife and agents at the winter meetings on Sunday, are poised to sign Hamilton if the Rangers do not, according to the Seattle Times.
All of the talks are fluid and subject to change. The blockbuster, sources said, is taking on several new forms a day.
The Cleveland Indians, one of the early constants in the discussions, no longer are part of the Upton talks, and could be looking elsewhere to trade shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Diamondbacks, desperately trying to acquire a shortstop, had targeted Cabrera and the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus. Their inability to acquire either player — at least thus far — could lead to a different type of return for Upton.
The D-Backs also want a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Tampa Bay has been fielding offers for virtually all of its pitchers, including right-handers James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson.
Tampa Bay could send one of the starters to Arizona and Texas could part with a top prospect such as infielder Mike Olt in the three-way deal.
But The Rangers’ apparent goal — to land both Upton and Greinke — is threatened on numerous fronts.
The Dodgers could wreck the Rangers’ plans by outbidding them for Greinke, possibly forcing Texas back to Hamilton and into the trade market for a starting pitcher, with Shields among the possibilities.
The blockbuster, meanwhile, remains a long shot, according to multiple officials involved in the discussions.
In one former permutation of the deal that involved Cleveland, the Mariners would have acquired Texas left-hander Derek Holland, whom the Rangers intend to trade only if they land an elite starter such as Greinke. The Mariners’ ulterior motive in such discussions could be to ensure that Upton goes to Texas, clearing the way for Seattle to sign Hamilton.
The package of young players that would have gone to Cleveland in such a deal varied, but Arizona right-hander Trevor Bauer, left-hander Patrick Corbin and Texas’ Olt were among the names in play, according to one source. The Diamondbacks, if they were giving up Upton and young pitching, likely would get more than Cabrera in return.
The Mariners also would give up prospects, something they probably would not want to do unless they could land Hamilton, improving their chances of contending in the AL West immediately.
One thread, then, is tied to another — and a rival official involved in the Seattle four-way described the Mariners as the holdup, with club officials apparently unsure of the team’s direction.
The M’s, who have had one of the worst offenses in the majors the past three seasons, closed in on a deal with free-agent outfielder Jason Bay on Thursday, and also are among the teams talking to free-agent first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher.