The Diamondbacks are willing to trade right fielder Justin Upton even if they are in contention, according to major league sources.
However, to make such a deal, the D-backs would need to be “dazzled” by a rival team’s offer, sources say.
The D-backs essentially are taking the same approach toward trading Upton that they did during the 2010-11 offseason, shortly after Kevin Towers became their general manager. The club entertained offers for Upton that winter, but ultimately chose not to move him.
Towers, unlike many GMs, is willing to listen on virtually all of his players. Without Upton, the D-backs could go with an outfield of Jason Kubel, Chris Young and Gerardo Parra. The team also has two highly regarded outfield prospects, A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton, at Triple A.
If the D-backs stayed in contention — and they only are four games out in the NL West after entering the break with three straight victories over the first-place Dodgers — they could pursue a deal built around major leaguers rather than prospects, sources say.
The question, as it was in the winter of 2010-11, was whether any team will meet the D-backs’ price for Upton, whom club officials consider to be a “70” on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
Upton, who turns 25 on Aug. 25, also is quite affordable — he is under contract for $6.75 million this season and $42.5 million from 2013 to ’15.
For those asking, “Why would the D-backs even trade Upton?” the answer might simply be, “Because they can.” Upton raises questions among some rival clubs with his effort level and body language, but one scout recently timed him from home to first in 4.2 seconds, which is well above-average.
Towers would trade him for the right package. Towers would trade almost anyone.
RANGERS PREFER HAMELS
Though the Rangers are scouting Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke, their preference would be to trade for Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, sources say.
While the Rangers are deep in starting pitchers, a number of their starters dealt with physical issues in the first half, and none possesses the postseason credentials of Hamels, who was the MVP of the 2008 World Series.
The Phillies entered the All-Star break 14 games out of first place in the National League East, their path to becoming a seller increasingly clear. However, they are expected to make one last push to sign Hamels before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
SPEAKING OF COLE …
Hamels, in an extensive interview with Leslie Gudel of CSNPhilly.com, had some interesting comments about the state of the Phillies and his future with the club.
Phillies fans no doubt will be encouraged that Hamels indicated that he would be willing to re-sign with the team even if he was traded, saying, “I can always leave and come back.”
Hamels’ teammate, left-hander Cliff Lee, followed such a course, leaving the Phillies in a trade after the 2009 season then re-signing with them a year later in free agency for five years, $120 million.
OK, but anything is possible once a player hits the open market. If the Phillies truly want Hamels, they should sign him to an extension sooner rather than later.
Frankly, Hamels’ positive remarks about the organization, despite the team’s struggles this season, should have been more heartening to club officials than his talk of coming back as a free agent. But even on that subject, what would you expect him to say?
Hamels is not about to criticize the Phillies, who any day now could offer him a contract in excess of Lee’s. He’s not going to rule out signing with them later, effectively eliminating a bidder from the process.
GAMBLING ON LIRIANO
Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano is 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA in eight starts since returning to the team’s rotation, but most clubs still are wary of trading for him.
Liriano, even during this period of relative prosperity, is averaging 4.4 walks per nine innings. The Braves have been linked to him, but why would they want a potential free agent, who is no more trustworthy than their young starters?
Better the Braves should trade for Greinke — or better still, Rays right-hander James Shields, who is earning $7 million this season, with club options of $9 million next season and $12 million in 2014.
Some clubs like Liriano better as a reliever. And it’s doubtful that any will part with significant prospects when under the new collective bargaining agreement, there is no possibility of draft-pick compensation if he leaves as a free agent.
The Twins, by the way, will listen not just on Liriano. Closer Matt Capps, recovering from right shoulder inflammation, also will be available once he comes off the disabled list, sources say.
MOVEMENT IN MOTOWN?
The Tigers, according to one executive that has spoken to them, are placing a greater emphasis on adding offense than adding a top starter such as Cubs righty Matt Garza.
A second baseman (Marco Scutaro?) is perhaps the team’s greatest priority, but the team also could explore deals for a corner outfielder, back-end starter and bullpen arm, the executive said.
The problem, as Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told my colleague Jon Paul Morosi earlier this season, is that quality second baseman are in short supply.
One possibility for the Tigers would be to package second-tier prospects with second baseman Ryan Raburn or outfielder Brennan Boesch for a more established hitter.