Texas badly wants Justin Upton, according to major-league sources. Arizona, seeking a shortstop, is focused on Asdrubal Cabrera.
The goals of those two clubs are driving talk of three- and four-team blockbusters at the winter meetings – and also might shed light on what is happening with the two biggest free agents, right-hander Zack Greinke and outfielder Josh Hamilton.
The Rangers’ fervent push for Upton, according to one rival executive, is an indication of their confidence in landing Greinke, who also is being pursued by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Upton, 25, would help replace the offense lost by the departure of 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, one 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 say, is taking on several new forms a day. Texas, Arizona and Cleveland are the constants. Different teams – Tampa Bay, Seattle and possibly Kansas City – have taken turns as the fourth club.
The Rangers also are believed to have engaged in separate three-way discussions that would land them Upton; “Anything for Justin” might as well be their motto at these meetings.
The Dodgers, however, 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 Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields among the possibilities.
The blockbuster, meanwhile, remains a longshot, according to multiple officials involved in the discussions. Cleveland and Arizona barely were in contact Wednesday, sources said, prompting one official to speculate that the Indians might be moving Cabrera in a separate deal. But Rangers GM Jon Daniels continues to push for Upton, sources say.
In one recent permutation of the blockbuster that involved Cleveland, the Mariners would acquire 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 going to Cleveland in such a deal would vary, but Arizona right-hander Trevor Bauer, left-hander Patrick Corbin and Texas infielder Mike 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.